Jack Pierson vs. Simon Doonan: Art Heist?

Fuck_you_jack_piersonFabulous, creative, or simply outrageous?

New York gallery Cheim & Read is apparently pissed that Barney’s creative director Simon Doonan is “borrowing” artist Jack Pierson’s style for a series of displays in the store, without giving credit.

Tyler Green reports on an email the gallery sent out regarding the letter sculpture copies: “They are formally weak plagiarized versions of Jack Pierson’s work and we want you to know that they are not by Jack Pierson. Many people have assumed they are. They are, in fact, made by Simon Doonan, the chief window dresser at Barney’s. Jack Pierson has asked that he remove them but he has refused.”

Jack_pierson_fame_1I haven’t yet seen a photo of the Barney’s display. I’ve been a Jack Pierson fan for years, and there’s no doubt Simon Doonan is one as well. But, if the artistic infractions have been going on for a year as the gallery claims, Doonan should definitely make good.

Aside from being a keen sculptor, Pierson also has a love for men that results in sexy, honest, saturated portraits of them. I’d highly recommend his recent book, Every Single One of Them, which I’ve discussed here before, if you, too, are a fan.

Jp1 Jp2

Also, before I get flamed for my own “use” of art, I’d like to give a little preview for my next “About the Banner” by saying that the above Towleroad banner is a photo I shot of a work by artist Gary Hill. However, I think there’s a big difference between photographing an artwork (which you fully intend to credit) and borrowing someone’s idea and using it as your own.


  1. says

    Initially was I wanted to dismiss this but once I looked up Jack’s work ( I am familiar with the photography), it was, well, it is, a rip-off. We must also note it is a low-blow to call Mr Doonan a “chief window” dresser. He is fact, the creative director at Barney’s and like all of creatives, he can run out of juice. When your caught red-handed, its best to admit it, and in this case, there is little doubt Simon is a fan of Jack’s.
    It’s a bit like when Hockney came up with the multiple polaroid shots and people everywhere started to imitate that look…or Barbara Kruger with her fierce Futura font messages, fact is, good art gets imitated, just look back on that fabulous Genre cover that was was so recently “sampled.”

  2. says

    Has New York forgotten that Andy Warhol started out as a window fitter? Madison and Fifth Avenue have always borrowed from art and in turn art has borrowed from them.

    I haven’t seen the actual windows but I believe the word is appropriation. It’s called that because theft sounds dirty and common. It’s admiration.

  3. says

    I don’t believe there is anything wrong with copying an artistic style. It’s been done for thousands of years and an artistic style can’t be copyrighted. Not having seen the window work, the work of Pierson in question is just a three dimentional version of a ransom note.

  4. Joe says

    As a Creative Director, I’ve seen the above style lettering work for years, used by various pubs, websites, tshirts, magnets, etc.
    I don’t know who did it first, but it’s been done to death. Look no futher than Xtina’s video, “What a Girl Wants” circa 2001.

    There’s even a free website that lets you create words using various letters shot from vintage signs. I’ve used it on MySpace and grew bored with it after a day.

    The whole concept is tired, and I don’t think Barney’s is gulity of anything except being so 5 years ago.

    Everything has been done before. The challenge is reinventing it or turning it on it’s head so you see it in a new way. Neither one of these artists have done that.

  5. says

    Since Jack Pierson has been a part of the Miami art scene for over a decade, he must be familiar with photographer Laura Paretsky, who used the same style in her work long before him. One could, in theory, go all the way back to to Walker Evans, who may have been the first to use the format (if Berenice Abbott didn’t do it before him). But you can’t very well sue people who died before you were born for plagiarism, can you? This in no way detracts from Pierson’s genius as an artist; I can see where it may be jarring to see something that appears to be your work –yet isn’t– so prominently displayed.

  6. Slem says

    Well, you can see the thinness of sculpture that so easily transcribes to windowdressing, with anyone but the gallery able to distinguish the works. More than that, the sculpture Pierson makes is appropriated manufactured lettering, someone else’s work, too. He’s just rearranged the letters in a fashionable way, like say, windowdressing. Is Pierson original?

  7. toby jones says

    Andy, your comment about photographing art being OK (I don’t disagree) reminds me of the time I was walking around a hill town in Tuscany…I took some pictures of the posters for a show by a local artist. But she saw me do it, chased me down, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I erased the pictures from my digital camera. Artists can be so tempermental!

  8. Buster says

    Legally, of course, you’re exactly wrong. “Copying” a style is legal (you’re taking an idea, which is not protected, rather than the specific way someone has expressed an idea, which is.) Photographing someone else’s art and reproducing without permission (regardless of whether you attribute it and regardless of whether your use is commercial) is copyright infringement.

  9. Rachel Cohen says

    Simon’s been working with found letters since he lived in LA! Jack needs to get over his precious widdle self. If anything, Jack copies–well, everyone else.

  10. Hamp says

    In 1976 I bought a batch of mismatched letters that spelled out my name and placed them next to one another on a shelf. I still have them sitting on top of a dresser thirty years later. Should I take them down? Or maybe I should sue Pierson and rake in some of the bucks he’s raking in through the use of an art/craft medium that’s been around as long as there have been letters.

  11. Lauren says

    How completely arrogant of Jack Cheim to assume that anyone using found letters must have taken the idea from the artist he is representing. Give me a break. Simon Doonan has been using the very same letters for the last 25 years. Just because someone in the “art world” does something, that means they now have a monopoly on it? I personally have seen found letters being used in all types of displays and artworks for well over 20 years. Jack Pierson’s work is not anything new, believe me.

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