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Denmark awards Ai Weiwei damages over use of Copenhagen installation in ad

A Danish court Wednesday ordered a Volkswagen dealer to pay Chinese artist Ai Weiwei more than 1.5 million kroner (230,000 euros) in damages for using one of the artist's works in an ad without authorisation.

Denmark awards Ai Weiwei damages over use of Copenhagen installation in ad
Ai Weiwei's 2017 installation saw the windows of Kunsthal Charlottenborg filled with 3,500 lifejackets used by refugees. Photo: Linda Kastrup / Ritzau Scanpix

“SMC's (the dealer) use of the piece of art constituted a violation of the marketing law's paragraph… on good marketing practises,” the tribunal ruled.

In 2017, SMC used a photo of a Volkswagen Polo parked in front of an Ai Weiwei art installation in Copenhagen to promote the launch of a new car on its website and in the dealer's customer magazine.

The work by the 61-year-old dissident artist, entitled “Soleil Levant”, comprised 3,500 life jackets collected from refugees who had arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos between 2015 and 2016, crammed into the windows of the Charlottenborg art gallery in Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

The court held that commercial use of the work was a “clear contradiction of the considerations and thoughts behind the work,” noting the misuse could be harmful to the artist's reputation.

SMC was ordered to pay 1.5 million kroner for unlawful use of the work and an additional 250,000 for non-financial damages.

The artist announced his intention to sue the dealer in a post on Instagram in March.

“The infringing material was circulated to over 200,000 people, giving the false impression that I had authorized Volkswagen to use my artwork in its ad for the new Polo,” he stated.

The son of a poet revered by former communist leaders, Ai Weiwei helped design the famous “Bird's Nest”-stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but fell out of favour after criticising the Chinese government.

Ai Weiwei was imprisoned for 81 days in 2011 in China and has been denied a passport for four years. He has been living in Europe since 2015.

READ ALSO: Ai Weiwei boycotts Denmark over 'shameless' migrant bill

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JEWELLERY

Ai Weiwei boycotts Denmark over ‘shameless’ migrant bill

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has pulled his works out of Denmark in protest against the Danish government’s controversial bill that allows authorities to seize valuables from refugees.

Ai Weiwei boycotts Denmark over 'shameless' migrant bill
Ai Weiwei. Photo: PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI/Scanpix
Ai, China's most prominent contemporary artist, went on social media to decry Denmark’s “shameless” bill that among other things allows authorities to confiscate valuables from migrants and delays family reunifications for refugees for up to three years.
 
The artist announced that as a direct result of the bill he will pull his exhibitions from ARoS Aarhus Art Museum and the Copenhagen gallery Faurschou Foundation. 
 
 
Ai shared the text of a letter sent to the leadership of ARoS explaining his decision.
 
“I am very shocked about yesterday's [Tuesday’s, ed.] news that the Danish government has decided to seize refugees' private property. As a result of this regrettable decision, I must withdraw from your exhibition ‘A New Dynasty.Created In China’ to express my protest of the Danish governments' decision. Please accept my regrets and thank you for your long-term support. I apologize for the inconvenience caused,” the artist wrote. 
 
 
In a later post, he announced that he would close his exhibition ‘Ruptures’ at the Faurschou Foundation. He wrote that the gallery’s owner supported the decision. 
 
 
“Jens Faurschou backs the artist’s decision and regrets that the Danish parliament chose to be in the forefront of symbolic and inhuman politics of todays biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe and the Middle East, instead of being in the forefront of a respectful European solution to solve the acute humanitarian crisis,” Ai wrote on Instagram. 
 
On Twitter, the artist posted news about the passing of Denmark’s controversial bill and called it “shameless”.
 
This is not the first Denmark-related controversy for Ai, who helped design the Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics and his work has been exhibited worldwide.
 
Danish toy giant Lego refused a bulk order from Ai in October, saying it would not sell directly to users with “political” intentions. The decision set off a firestorm of criticism and ultimately led Lego to change its policy
 
Ai is currently on the Greek island of Lesbos and is flooding his social media accounts with images of arriving asylum seekers.