Art law News Germany

Agreement reached in plagiarism row between artists

A checkerboard work by Tobias Rehberger, covered up because of a complaint from the Op Art painter Bridget Riley, will soon go on view again

Tobias Rehberger's Uhrenobjekt before it was covered up at the Berlin national library. Foto: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - PK / Jörg F. Müller

A wall-sized, black-and-white checkerboard work by Tobias Rehberger, commissioned by the Berlin national library but concealed for almost year because of a complaint brought by the British Op-Art painter Bridget Riley, will again go on show.

The piece was at the centre of a legal row between Rehberger and Riley, who said it plagiarised her painting Movement of Squares, 1961, and demanded it be removed from display in the library’s reading room. Rehberger argued that the checkerboard pattern was part of the public domain. The work was covered up instead, but will soon be unveiled following an agreement reached Wednesday, 15 December in a Berlin court. The work can stay put but must carry the caption: Uhrenobjekt nach Movement in Squares von Bridget Riley (clock object after Movement in Squares by Bridget Riley).

The controversial installation has not been visible to the public since the case started in March 2013, and is the first in a four-part series of works that the German artist was commissioned to create for the national library.

Meanwhile, it was also announced today that Rehberger will have a major retrospective at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. “Tobias Rehberger: Home and Away and Outside” is due to run from 21 February to 11 May.

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22 Jan 14
3:21 CET


The checkerboard design is not the point - it is the illusory way the squares change shape to curve and vanish behind the plane of the image that differentiates this from a chess board - and this is what Bridget Riley devised, and what lifts the work away from simple decoration. She is entitled to the credit attached to it.

20 Jan 14
19:5 CET


The checkerboard design is old and widely used. Does this mean Bridget Riley can threaten to sue the makers of chess and draughts boards? In a globalised world full of online niches and cul-de-sacs, full of ideas and designs and words, it is very difficult to come up with something that one can call an original idea and be certain it is. The phrase, 'Great minds think alike', ought to be the drily-spoken motto of this generation's inventors, writers, artists.

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