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J'accused: Orlan Takes Gaga to Court for $31.7 million
by Max Nesterak

They say the highest form of flattery is imitation. They were wrong. The highest form of flattery is eight figures and the right to say, officially, that Gaga comes to you for tips.

French artist Orlan is taking Lady Gaga to court for as much, claiming the Mother Monster stole her look. Lady Gaga was not, as Orlan claims, "born this way." Rather, she plagiarized every bit of her third album from Orlan, which is why she's suing for 7.5 percent of the profits, or $31.7 million.

In an interview with Artinfo, Orlan's lawyer, Philippe Dutilleul-Francoeur, said the similarities between Orlan's work and Gaga's are "very striking:"

"Not only did Lady Gaga reproduce works by the artist, but she also drew inspiration from her concepts. Orlan’s entire universe of hybridizations was copied in the “Born This Way” album, such as giving birth to oneself, which is seen in Orlan’s photography series “Orlan accouche d’elle-m’aime” (1964-66). The inspiration went too far."

With filing a lawsuit in a Paris court, Orlan appears to be one-uping Gaga in "going too far." The lawsuit is pushing the envelope of creative copyright, and could set a precedent for owning aesthetics. It's also absolutely ridiculous.

Anyone who's taken an Intro to Art History class or cut out a picture of a celebrity to bring to a hair appointment should cringe at the idea of artists copyrighting aesthetics. What if Tzara owned Dadaism? Manet, impressionism? Picasso, cubism? More pressing, what if Britney owned the crazy, drug-addicted white girl aesthetic? Could she sue Lindsanity and Amanda Bynes for plagiarism? Furthormore, could Orlan then sue Britney for the idea of suing people for aesthetic theft? It's a slippery slope.

In defense of Orlan (Gaga's obvious elder), the two do share aesthetic similarities: face prosthetics, strong jawlines, and an affinity for severed heads.

Left: Orlan, “Woman with Head” (1996), performance at ICA London (via; right: a screen shot from Lady Gaga’s video for “Born This Way." Courtesy of Hyperallergic

In any case, no one can blame Orlan for trying. If she wins, we might consider it a consolation prize for having permanent horns implanted into her face, and the assurance that no one will be able to, legally speaking, do it again.


Posted by Max Nesterak on 6/20/13 | tags: born this way aesthetic plagiarism orlan lady gaga

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