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"Gay Batman" Artist Gets "Cease & Desist"


"Gay Batman" Artist Gets "Cease & Desist"

Artnet News

Aug. 18, 2005

"GAY BATMAN" ARTIST GETS "CEASE & DESIST" D.C. Comics has hit a Chelsea art dealer with a "cease & desist" letter for exhibiting Mark Chamberlain’s watercolors on a "gay Batman" theme. The works, which were exhibited at Kathleen Cullen Fine Art this spring (where they found ready buyers at prices starting at $200), include images of Batman and Robin exchanging a kiss, a watercolor titled Robin’s Baby Pictures depicting the Boy Wonder’s cute rear end, and a rendering of the Caped Crusader, sans shirt but otherwise in costume, striking a languorous pose. "D.C. Comics wants me to hand over all unsold work and invoices for the sold work," exclaimed dealer Kathleen Cullen (the gallery was formerly named Artek Contemporaries). "I’ve spent the last two weeks of my life consulting lawyers!" (Some works are also posted on Artnet, which has received a similar letter.)

The use by fine artists of mass-market and commercial cartoon imagery goes back decades -- both Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol were pursued by photographers for copyright violations (the artists tended to settle), and Jeff Koons famously litigated the String of Puppies case all the way to the Supreme Court (he lost). The Walt Disney Co. brought an infringement suit against Dennis Oppenheim for using small statuettes of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in his sculpture Virus, with mixed results -- the artist was forbidden to sell the work but allowed to exhibit it. Karen Finley’s 1999 book, Pooh Unplugged, a rather scatological version of the children’s classic, forestalled a similar lawsuit by labeling the publication "a parody" on its cover. The issue is a hot one -- more recently, artists including Tom Sachs and Damien Loeb have been touched by copyright (and trademark) disputes. Stay tuned.

Images from the site reposted here "just in case":