ART-FAIR FORTUNE TELLERS IN COPYCAT FIGHTDec. 20, 2011
If they're fortune tellers, shouldn’t they have seen this coming? Two Miami artists who both perform fortune teller acts are in a feud over who came up with the idea first. On one side is Evo Love, who played Lil Miss Fortune and handed out predictions for a $1 at the 2010 Fountain Art Fair in Miami. Then there’s David Rohn, who simulated an animatronic fortune teller called The Amazing Ultran and dispensed his forecasts for $1 each at his carnival-style booth at Scope earlier this month.
When Love, whose real name is Yvonne Grams, saw Rohn’s performance, she wrote an email to Artnet Magazine. “We have a thief among us,” she said. “I know David very well, he runs around in the same circle of friends as I do. . . . I saw David as he watched me perform and he straight up ripped me off.”
Afterward, Artnet Magazine mentioned the spat in a story on copyright law and the Patrick Cariou v. Richard Prince case -- noting, with apparent accuracy, "it's a bloody battle out there in the image archive." The five sentences were enough to prompt a bullet-pointed response from Rohn.
“Evo Love states ‘we've known each other for a long time;’ I have no recollection of ever having met her. . . . Evo Love states on her Facebook page that I’ve never done a fortune teller, and that therefore I must have 'stolen' it from her. In fact, I did a fortune teller named Madame Plotsky last spring at a fund-raiser. . . . Evo Love states that she saw me at the Fountain Art Fair last year. Again, she’s mistaken, I never went to Fountain. . . .”
Rohn’s friend Kevin Arrow weighed in with an email as well. “Sadly, I have never heard of Ms. Love or her work until she launched her Wounded Artist campaign of ‘setting the record straight.’ My one question for Ms. Love would be, ‘Do you feel like you are the first person to impersonate a fortune teller in a performance-art context?’ Because you are not the first, nor the last, nor the best.”
All the while, the artists and their friends have been posting the emails and taking sides on the walls of their Facebook pages. One commenter on Love’s page wrote, “Yvonne's work is arresting, interesting and unforgettable so it's not surprising that collectors like me want it and other artists are inspired by it, even want to emulate it.”
On Rohn’s page, meanwhile, several friends encouraged him to get a lawyer. “Demand a retraction and compensation as well,” wrote one poster. Rohn agreed, writing, “Artnet has carelessly abused my name and I have asked them for a disclaimer about their views on printing accusations.”
We ran Love’s claims by veteran appropriation artist Eric Doeringer. “I can see why she's pissed off since they are both artists in a somewhat provincial ‘scene’, but really? It's not like she invented the idea of fortune telling, and I doubt she is the first person to do it in an art context,” he said. “It's sort of like saying you can't paint wine bottles because Morandi did it already.”
We hope that the two artists will make peace and face a future "roped together" as the Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque of the fortune-telling business. When it comes to copyright lawsuits, as the Magic Eight Ball might say, "outlook not so good."