Sculptor who made Cattelan's works seeks million-dollar compensation

Daniel Druet, the sculptor who materially made the models for some of Maurizio Cattelan's sculptures, is seeking compensation of 5 million from the artist. In fact, he claims that he has not been properly recognized for the intellectual property of the work.

A million-dollar, 5-million-euro compensation: this is what Daniel Druet, an 80-year-old French sculptor, intends to demand from Maurizio Cattelan, who he says is guilty of failing to properly acknowledge the intellectual property of some works. Druet is the sculptor who was materially responsible for making the models for some of Cattelan’s most famous works, from The Ninth Hour, the sculpture depicting Pope John Paul II being struck by a meteorite, to Him, the famous depiction of Hitler kneeling. He has been collaborating with Cattelan for many years: the two met in the 1990s in France, where Cattelan, after a visit to the Musée Grevin, which preserves the wax creations of the talented Druet, was fascinated by the work of the experienced French sculptor and therefore involved him in the creative process of his works. The case was made public by the French newspaper Le Monde.

Druet decided to take legal action to claim the intellectual property of as many as nine of Cattelan’s works, in addition to financial compensation of 5 million euros. But that’s not all: Druet is also seeking damages from the Musée Monnaie in Paris, where a major Maurizio Cattelan retrospective was held in 2016, as he claims the museum was complicit with the artist in attributing works to Cattelan without mentioning Druet’s name. That the idyll between Druet and Cattelan had been over for a while, however, was a known fact: a few months ago, Druet even made a sculpture, titled Le Coucou, where Cattelan emerges from an egg, like a chick, with an innocent air, an allusion to the relationship between the two.

According to the Perrotin Gallery, which represents Cattelan, the models of the sculptures at the center of the lawsuit were actually created by Druet (the collaboration between the two has, after all, been well known for years), but based on ideas and concepts developed in an original way by Cattelan. It is, after all, an established and perfectly known practice in the contemporary art world: the artist fixes ideas and sketches on paper, and it is then up to specialized sculptors to translate the ideas into the finished works (the documentary Le mani dell’arte, written by Federico Giannini and Daniele Rocca and aired on Rai5 in 2021, tells precisely how this process takes place, and also showed the workshop where the famous middle finger in Piazza Affari took shape).

In the case of the dispute between Druet and Cattelan, the problem seems to lie in the terms of the collaboration: usually, in fact, artists and performers set the terms of the collaboration with in-depth contracts, precisely to prevent such situations from arising. In this case, gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin told Le Monde, there seems to have been a lack in this regard: “We were naive,” he said, pointing out that at the time the collaboration was established, Druet and Cattelan “did not talk about a contract.” Perrotin then added that Cattelan has regularly paid Druet for his work, and that he has no outstanding debt to the sculptor. Druet let it be known that Cattelan “would send ten-line faxes, or his Italian collaborators, who barely spoke French, would give me instructions. It was all rather vague and it was up to me to understand.”

The first hearing is set for March 13 in Paris. And it will be a trial that is sure to be discussed for a long time.

Image: Maurizio Cattelan, The Ninth Hour (1999; polyester, resin, volcanic rock, carpet, glass, metal powder, latex, wax, fabric; Private collection)

Sculptor who made Cattelan's works seeks million-dollar compensation
Sculptor who made Cattelan's works seeks million-dollar compensation

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