Thursday, April 23, 2009

The People vs. Louis Vuitton and MoCA

Honest Oversight or Intentional Scam?

Takashi Murakami's "limited edition" prints, similar to the works above, sold at MoCA for $6,000 a pop.

LATer Mike Boehm reported today on the ongoing dispute between luxury goods retailer Louis Vuitton, the beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) and would-be entrepreneurial print collector Clint Arthur. Mr. Arthur alleges that Louis Vuitton and MoCA failed to adhere to the Fine Print Act which, among other things, legally defines what constitutes a fine [art] print and how it should be sold to consumers. According to the act, the State of California defines it as follows:

"Fine print" or "print" means a multiple produced by, but not limited to, engraving, etching, woodcutting, lithography, and serigraphy, and means multiples produced or developed from photographic negatives, or any combination thereof.

That seems pretty legit and straight forward to me. So far, so good. The legal jargon continues with defining limited edition:

"Limited edition" means fine art multiples produced from a master, all of which are the same image and bear numbers or other markings to denote the limited production thereof to a stated maximum number of multiples, or are otherwise held out as limited to a maximum number of multiples.

Uh-oh, I think we have finally run into a problem here. Since the works in question were admittedly created from scraps of left over material from the Murakami-designed Louis Vuitton handbags, I think that this evidence alone proves that Louis Vuitton incorrectly marketed the prints a limited edition.

Usually, limited edition prints of this ilk are printed according to specific guidelines and standards set forth by the artist and a master printer. In consultation with the artist, the master printer will go through several print proof runs in order to achieve the correct color(s) and registration (a fancy print term which means precise color or image alignment) needed to print the edition. Once the desired look is achieved, the master printer will designate that specific print as the bon à tirer, or "good print" in French. The bon à tirer serves as the printer's template (master print) for the rest of the edition. If there is no bon à tirer, then the print is most likely not a true limited edition -- case closed! I'm eager to see how the judge will rule on this, but I guess we'll have to wait until this summer to find out.