Monday, August 4, 2014

Miami-based Street Artist 'Ahol Sniffs Glue' Sues Retailer American Eagle Outfitters

Miami-based urban art star David Anasagasti, known better by his street art name Ahol Sniffs Glue, is suing American Eagle Outfitters alleging that the teen apparel brand used his work in a global advertising campaign without permission. Anasagasti filed a lawsuit last week in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York accusing the retailer of stealing two copyrighted images depicting his signature art – rows and rows of droopy eyes that appear half asleep. The South Florida native is among the most well known of the local street artists for his soaring urban murals with expansive fields of drowsy eyes, which can be found adorning numerous walls and hotspots throughout Wynwood and the rest of Miami.

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The beloved Miami-based street artist has a raw yet instantly recognizable style. His work involves disparate themes from mass media, popular culture and marginalized pockets of society. From a young age he started on a path toward art-world notoriety with persistent sketches in his notebooks. “I did these whole civilizations of characters,” he says. “One day, I just decided to take their eyes and make a pattern out of it.” Drawing inspiration from the urban environment and systems of society which dehumanize its inhabitants, his deceptively simple, yet complex renderings portray the veneer of our everyday surroundings and the dull, job-related conflicts often encountered in a dysfunctional workplace.

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The question is, did American Eagle rip off Ahol’s street art? The suit claims that American Eagle brought models to Wynwood for a photoshoot, and at that point, the company allegedly used the artwork in a variety of ways, integrating the images into their advertising campaign in several countries last Spring. The lawsuit also said that the retailer recreated the eyes on a wall for the grand opening of an American Eagle store in Medellin, Colombia. Anasagasti claims in his suit that the brand is using his art in their stores, as well as online and outdoor billboards without his permission. The artists’ agent is Gregg Shienbaum of Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art, the owner of one of Miami’s contemporary art galleries located in the Wynwood Arts District. “Ahol is not painting for a corporation,” said Shienbaum. “He’s painting because he loves it.”

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The lawsuit said, “Given that he hails from the counter-culture world of underground street artists, Mr. Anasagasti’s reputation as an artist has been founded, in part, on a public perception that (he) doesn’t ‘sell out’ to large corporate interests.” Even though Anasagasti registered the copyrights after American Eagle launched their advertising campaign, he is suing for unspecified damages, as well as profits from the infringement.

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Shienbaum said, “the eyes are decidedly anti-corporate. They represent the working class, who struggle and are good people,” he explained. “They may look a little droopy, a little sad, but it’s his way of saying, ‘You may be down today, but you’ve got to keep going.’”

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