Robert Rauschenberg

Rauschenberg gallery to continue lawsuit after artist’s death

Case seeks to punish defendant for selling works found in trash

Shortly before his death on 12 May, aged 82, the artist Robert Rauschenberg was seeking court permission to amend his complaint in a state lawsuit over alleged misuse of his name and materials he had thrown out in the trash.

Rauschenberg’s gallery in Florida, Untitled Press Inc, will likely continue the case, says the late artist’s attorney, Lawrence Kolin of Orlando.

The claim alleges that Florida artist Robert Fontaine deliberately sought to trade on Rauschenberg’s fame by unlawfully offering for sale items found in the late artist’s trash accompanied by certificates of authenticity stating that they were genuine works signed by Rauschenberg.

The amended complaint would seek damages for commercial misappropriation, reducing confidence in Rauschenberg’s other art, copyright violation, libel with disregard to his name, invasion of privacy, and placement in a false light in the artistic community. He was also seeking an injunction barring further offending activities. Rauschenberg “will not lend his name for misattribution to works of art not created by him”, the claim said.

Rauschenberg was also suing the defendant in federal court, claiming violations of his rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, but a federal suit under this Act cannot continue after the artist dies.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 192 June 2008