Friday, May 13, before the 3rd chamber of the Paris tribunal de grande instance, the most striking intellectual property case to be argued has undoubtedly ever shaken the world of contemporary art. It opposes the unknown sculptor Daniel Druet, twice Grand Prix de Rome, author, among others, of countless wax effigies exhibited at the Grévin museum, the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, his gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin and the Monnaie de Paris – who dedicated an important retrospective to Cattelan in 2016. The subject of this legal fight, which has been going on for four long years, concerns eight sculptures by Maurizio Cattelan for which Daniel Druet claims exclusive paternity and the sum of 5 million euros.

It was indeed Druet who, on commission, and according to the instructions given by Cattelan and his assistants, produced these works between 1999 and 2006, including the famous pope struck by a meteorite (La Nona Ora, 1999) and the little Penitent Hitler (Him, 2001). But is the fact that he himself molded them, fashioned them, even virtuosically, enough to make him their author? The debate is in fact as old as the history of art: the great artists of the Renaissance, such as Tintoretto or Vinci, or later Rembrandt, to name but a few, also surrounded themselves in their workshops many collaborators to realize their fabrics. But never had such a fight between two artists, one conceptual sponsor and the other academic performer, gone so far judicially, for the simple reason that the collaboration of the two parties in this specific case never made the difference. object of a contract, Druet having worked only on estimate, fault in which engulfed its lawyer.

The case, the outcome of which is anxiously awaited in the world of contemporary art, had so far been handled discreetly. However, two weeks before the hearing, an article in Le Monde, signed by our colleague Pascale Nivelle, told this incredible story and compared the destinies of the star artist, whose rating has soared, to that of the unknown old contractor who basically would not have had its share of glory and benefits. However, it is impossible not to read between the lines of this paper, as a subliminal idea, the unfortunately widespread conviction that one is not an artist if one does not know how to hold a chisel and brush oneself, an idea that comes back to the fundamentally, to purely and simply deny the value of conceptual art in favor of technical execution alone. As a result, the opposing parties are urgently trying to put the debate into perspective. A column circulates, signed by artists, museum curators and exhibition curators, explaining that thousands of artists have always had subcontractors work without them being confused with creators.

Maître Pierre-Olivier Sur, lawyer for the gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin, for his part reminds forcefully that the work of Mr. Daniel Druet has never been concealed, and that the man has always been paid on estimate, in fact very expensive. from their first collaboration, when Maurizio Cattelan and Emmanuel Perrotin were not yet known and when all the risks fell to them. “They financed the first works at a loss and gambled their reputation with these sulphurous sculptures, while Daniel Druet stayed away from scandal. With Maurizio Cattelan, it is not the sculptures themselves that make the work, but it is the way in which they are staged, diverted or even broken that makes sense. The pope as Daniel Druet shaped him and sent to Maurizio Cattelan was then broken in two, exhibited in an extremely precise attitude, and it is this concept that makes the work and the emotion, obviously not the statue itself -same. »

At the hearing, many documents should be produced to attest to the very detailed instructions – inclination, size, attitude – which were given to Daniel Druet for the realization of these sculptures, instructions that the performer himself said he respected at the time. letter. During the trial, which promises to be exciting, basically one question, just one, will undoubtedly be on everyone’s mind: would the works of Maurizio Cattelan exist without Daniel Druet? Since he no longer works with the former supplier of the Grévin museum, Maurizio Cattelan has, in fact, never stopped creating, calling on other performers. The Nona Ora also exists in several copies, not all of which were shaped by Daniel Druet. Perhaps this is the beginning of an answer?