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May 06, 2015

Did Saint-Gobain's 'Future Sensations' plagiarize local artist Joe Boruchow's design?

The Arts Artists
Boruchow Gobain File Art /PhillyVoice

Did Saint-Gobain copy Joe Boruchow's design for one of their "Future Sensations" pavilions?

Well known Philadelphia-based paper cutout artist Joe Boruchow is claiming that building materials producer Saint-Gobain has misappropriated his work for their "Future Sensations" exhibit, a series of traveling immersive marketing installations making stops in Shanghai, São Paulo, Paris and Philadelphia. The show is a celebration of Saint-Gobain's 350 years in business.

With North American headquarters in Valley Forge, Saint-Gobain's "Future Sensations" is set to hit Eakins Oval on May 30 until June 6 of this year.

The exhibit features a series of "ephemeral pavilions," where visitors can learn about the Saint-Gobain corporation and the materials they have manufactured over the years. 

Boruchow believes that Saint-Gobain's structure, "Pavilion 1", is a misappropriation of his work entitled, "A Closed System". 

Joe Boruchow's design originally appeared pasted to a mailbox. The framed original is with his gallery representative, Paradigm Gallery, on Philadelphia's Fabric Row.  

Above is an image of Pavilion 1 from "Future Sensations". 

Boruchow sent the following open letter Tuesday evening to local media outlets:

To whom it may concern,

A few weeks ago I was disturbed to see an article about your Future Sensations exhibit that is set to be displayed in Philadelphia from May 30 to June 6. One of the displays is a clear misappropriation of my original work called "A Closed System". 

I am an artist that has been publicly displaying my work in Philadelphia for the past 15 years and can't understand why you would not acknowledge and compensate me for the work that you clearly stole for your promotional display. I have contacted several legal experts about the matter but, unfortunately, do not qualify for pro bono legal services and yet cannot afford to bring a case on my own. 

Hence, I'm writing you today (and forwarding this email along to the media outlets that have written about and promoted your event) to appeal to your sense of decency and asking that you either cease to use my design or compensate and credit me for the work that you have exploited. 

The years of hard work that I have put into devising my technic and artistic reputation will be severely damaged by your abuse of my rights and I am I incensed and insulted that it will be displayed in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art at Eakins Oval -- a space that I aspire to show my work albeit without your commercial intentions. 

To falsely portray your company as a patron of artists in the city of Philadelphia with this clear rip off of my work is an affront to our great city and its fine artists' community. 

Joe Boruchow

Did the designers of "Future Sensations" plagiarize Joe Boruchow's work? 

Both pieces feature a prismatic composition of white lines over a black background, but when it comes to copyright law, it's not as easy as comparing two works and making a decision. Copyright law has less to do with similarities between the work, and more to do with how courts in your jurisdiction have dealt with copyright cases in the past and how much time and money you are willing to spend pursuing the case. 

Says Boruchow, "Seeing that they are a Philly company, I am convinced that whoever came up with the design was familiar with my work and recreated the effect in illustrator. It would be easy to scan it in and simply move a couple of lines to prevent an exact match. The lawyers that I spoke to were convinced that I had an actionable case of infringement." 

Saint-Gobain responded to Boruchow's letter today maintaining that their installation was designed by Bruno Tric and commissioned by Saint-Gobain’s outside design firm, FC2, in Paris. Reads the letter, "There is no indication that Mr. Tryc or FC2 had access to or did actually access Mr. Boruchow’s work. The works are considerably different in a variety of ways." The Saint-Gorbain corporation also offered to work with Boruchow through their foundation or another partnership. You can read their letter in full below. 

Boruchow is no stranger to infringement. In 2013, Goldenbergs Peanut Chews misappropriated a section of his piece "City Hall 2010" for a promotional display at Walgreens. After receiving a cease and desist from the artist, Goldenbergs removed the display and invited Boruchow for a tour of their factory. Boruchow declined their offer. 

Read Carmen Ferrigno, Vice President of Communications at Saint-Gobain Corporation's response to Boruchow's claim: 

On May 5, 2015, Saint-Gobain representatives received a letter from Philadelphia artist Joe Burochow suggesting we had used some of his designs for our Future Sensations exhibit. We were surprised by Mr. Burochow’s claims since the Saint-Gobain work is an independent creation of the artist Bruno Tryc commissioned by Saint-Gobain’s outside design firm, FC2, located in Paris, France. 

It was created in that city in May of 2014 and constructed in the Czech Republic thereafter. There is no indication that Mr. Tryc or FC2 had access to or did actually access Mr. Boruchow’s work. The works are considerably different in a variety of ways. To the extent that there are similarities between the two works, it is simply that they are both what is commonly called Line Art, that is, a variety of geometric shapes created by the use of lines. Such art is quite common and pre-dates the creation of either work.
That said, we recognize and appreciate Mr. Burochow’s work in and around the city of Philadelphia and would be happy to explore working with him, either through the Saint-Gobain Foundation or another kind of partnership to encourage students to embrace the interaction of art and science.”