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Brooklyn street artist sues over Katy Perry’s graffitied Met gala gown

Joseph Tierney says the Italian designer Moschino has used his work without permission in a line of clothing famously worn by the pop singer

The Italian designer Moschino and its creative director, Jeremy Scott, were sued to today in a California federal court by the Brooklyn graffiti artist Joseph Tierney. Tierney, who paints under the street name Rime, says Moschino’s designs for its last fall/winter season—including a much publicised gown worn by Katy Perry to the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute gala this spring—are copied from a mural, Vandal Eyes, that he was commissioned to paint in Detroit in 2012.

According to Tierney’s complaint, the defendants copied not just his mural but his signature Rime and then added their brand names “as if part of the original work… giving the impressions that the work was created for [them]”. In addition, Tierney says that despite his demands, “Jeremy Scott used and displayed infringing items in global advertising and media campaigns for his upcoming documentary film, in the audio/visual trailer, and in the film itself”.

Tierney says the defendants have profited from his designs but that his reputation has been damaged. “Nothing is more antithetical to the outsider ‘street cred’ that is essential to graffiti artists than association with European chic, luxury and glamour—of which Moschino is the epitome. To anyone who recognizes his work, Plaintiff is now wide open to charges of ‘selling out’”, the artist’s court filings say. The papers add that Katy Perry “even made a number of ‘worst-dressed’ lists” while wearing the graffitied gown, and her appearance at the Met with Scott bearing a fake cans of spray paint further compromised Tierney’s credibility as a street artist by associating his work with “a crass and commercial publicity stunt”.

Tierney is requesting damages in an unspecified amount, as well as the recall and destruction of the allegedly infringing clothes.

This is the latest in a still small string of cases in which graffiti artists are asserting their copyright in US courts. Last year, the Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, the movie director Terry Gilliam and the retailer American Eagle Outfitters were all separately sued by street artists, alleging that their art was copied without their permission. (The lawsuits against Terry Gilliam and American Eagle Outfitters were settled on undisclosed terms.)

Moschino was unavailable to respond to inquiries at the time of posting.