A new lawsuit claims that an Indonesian theme park attraction is infringing on the copyright of one of Los Angeles’s most iconic artistic landmarks.
On June 4, the Estate of Chris Burden filed suit against the Rabbit Town park in Bandung, West Java, and its owner, Henry Husada, in the Commercial Court at the Central Jakarta District Court. The suit alleges that Rabbit Town’s Love Light looks too similar to Burden’s famed Urban Light (2008) sculpture, which is permanently installed on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and has become one of the most identifiable works of public art in the world.
“From a legal perspective, one of the most important assets that comprises an artist’s legacy is the possibility of being able to use copyright as a tool to protect it and amplify it,” Yayoi Shionoiri, executive director of the Burden estate, told ARTnews. “To be able to protect something that an artist has put their originality, their creativity, and their name to, as well as the time and expense incurred to create a work that is something that the estate, in my opinion, has to vigorously protect.”
Like Burden’s Urban Light, Love Light presents dozens of streetlights in a grid-like formation. While Love Light does not have the same number of streetlights as Burden’s sculpture, the title may indicate that it is based on the iconic L.A. artwork, Shionoiri said. “We are pretty confident that Rabbit Town was trying to take advantage of how well-known Chris Burden’s Urban Light is and how much it has been represented in the media,” she added.
Rabbit Town and Husada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Hey @rabbittown.id … it’s cool you wanna bring some LA flavor to Indonesia, but blocking the people tagging @lacma in the comments doesn’t really go with chill West coast vibes… Chris Burden’s “Urban Lights” installation is pretty iconic lol • #lacma #urbanlights #chrisburden #permanentcollection #10thanniversary #rabbittown #indonesia #art #installationart #losangeles #la #california #westcoast #modernart #sculpture #lighting #nightphotography #palmtrees #instagrammuseum #instagood #instacool #dietprada
Since its opening in February 2018, Rabbit Town has come under fire because its attractions look similar to works by Burden and Yayoi Kusama, as well as to rooms in New York’s Museum of Ice Cream. A 2018 Guardian report said that locals were dismayed that the attractions looked so similar to famous art and that Indonesians had generally not been asked to contribute.
“My understanding was that Rabbit Town was trying to be a fun entertainment park where you could take selfies and it seemed like people were actually doing it in Indonesia, and it costs money to get in,” Shionoiri said.
Since around the time of the park’s opening, the estate had tried to get in contact with Rabbit Town and even considered offering it a post-facto license to Burden’s work. When those attempts proved unsuccessful, the estate decided that it would pursue legal action, which took time to retain a law firm in Indonesia and go through the proper approval process for a foreign plaintiff. (The coronavirus pandemic also caused delays to the initial suit being filed and approved.) A hearing is set for June 18.
“The Chris Burden Estate does believe in the dissemination of information about Burden and Burden’s works from art historical, informational, charitable, and educational perspectives,” she said. “However, we do make a distinction when a third-party entity wants to take advantage of Chris Burden’s artwork and make money off of it in a way that is not aligned in the Chris Burden Estate’s interest, and in this case that commercial distinction is what made it very important for us to actively assert our rights.”