H&M DODGES BOYCOTT: Less than 24 hours after a curator-collector-consultant called for an artists-led boycott of H&M, the fast-fashion chain has withdrawn the legal filing that fired up the controversy.
Last week, H&M filed a lawsuit in New York federal court claiming that copyright law did not apply in regards to its recent advertising campaign featuring graffiti done by artist Jason Williams, known as Revok. After seeing H&M’s New Routine imagery, which featured his artwork in the background, Williams had sent a cease and desist letter alleging that his art had been used without his permission or knowledge.
On March 14, Roger Gastman, a curator, collector and brand consultant, rallied fellow artists to boycott H&M. In an Instagram post, the Los Angeles creative described H&M’s legal action as “full-out assault on artists’ rights and we must raise our voices. This could render millions of murals and important pieces of artwork worldwide completely unprotected and available for corporate use, without any payment or permission needed whatsoever,” he posted. “We must not allow this company to use our artwork and appropriate our culture to sell their products for their own financial gains, while at the same time allow them to devalue and delegitimize our artwork, our culture and everything we work for.”
Executives at the Swedish conglomerate seem to have taken that challenge seriously and said Thursday that the company has withdrawn its legal complaint. Asked about the proposed boycott, a company spokeswoman said, “H&M respects the creativity and uniqueness of artists, no matter the medium. We should have acted differently in our approach to this matter. It was never our intention to set a precedent concerning public art or to influence the debate on the legality of street art. As a result, we are withdrawing the complaint filed in court. We are currently reaching out directly to the artist in question to come up with a solution. We thank you for your comments and concerns, as always, your voice matters to us.”
Williams declined comment through his attorney Thursday. A spokesman for Gastman did not respond to a request for comment. Brian Donnelly, the artist known as KAWS, who has had successful collaborations with H&M, declined comment through a spokesman, since he is preparing for next week’s exhibition openings in Tokyo and Hong Kong.