Spanish artist faces authorship lawsuit

The artist Antonio de Felipe, arguably Spain’s most established contemporary Pop artist, is facing one of the most challenging moments of his career: Fumiko Negishi, a Japanese artist based in Spain, has launched a lawsuit claiming she has painted 221 canvases signed by De Felipe.

Negishi said she worked at De Felipe’s Madrid studio for over 10 years, from 2006 until this past February, when she received a letter of dismissal citing financial reasons. Upon her dismissal, she felt that the artist did not respect her work or had any sympathy towards her situation, so she decided to tell her story.

She is not only telling her story to the Spanish media, but also to a judge. In the lawsuit, she demands that de Felipe “admits the truthful facts regarding the authorship of the paintings” and tells collectors and institutions that have purchased said works that Negishi is their author, or at least co-author.

She also demands that de Felipe rectify statements he made in media outlets claiming to be the sole author of his works, with no mention of Negishi’s contributions.

Meanwhile, de Felipe deny the claims: “[Negishi] has intervened in some areas of my paintings, but the intellectual authorship of the works is mine. Fumiko has not contributed anything to them,” De Felipe said, accusing Negishi of being disloyal and adding that she’s only “a studio assistant, like all artists have.”

Negishi, meanwhile, claims she executed the 221 paintings from scratch, based on sketches De Felipe had given to her. Negishi adds that those sketches were done by Photoshop, not by the artist’s hand, and that on occasions not even a sketch was provided as a starting point, only a photograph or an idea. Except for the original sketches, and adding his signature to the finished works, “De Felipe did not touch those paintings,” Negishi states.

Negishi’s current lawsuit doesn’t include a monetary compensation, but could be followed up with a subsequent legal process where it would be demanded.