Ai Weiwei sued Volkswagen earlier this year for using his installation Soleil Levant (2017), a work comprised of more than 3,500 life jackets collected from refugees, in one of their advertisements. Ai won the suit on Wednesday and a Volkswagen dealer was ordered by a Danish court to pay the artist more than €230,000 (about $258,000) in damages.
Ai created the work for World Refugee Day and it was installed at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Coppenhagen from June 20 to October 1, 2017. In an Instagram post dating back to March of this year, Ai said he intended to sue, stating: “I was astonished by Volkswagen’s brazen violations of my intellectual property and moral rights. Since November 2017 I have been trying to resolve the matter with Volkswagen. In more than one year of fruitless negotiation, they only engaged in arrogant gestures to trivialize their guilt and dismiss the matter.” Ai released a statement in The Guardian in May, saying that Volkswagen’s actions were “clear violations of my intellectual property and moral rights” and that “more importantly they raise larger questions of corporate power and responsibility in our era of global capitalism.”
According to the AFP, the court declared that Danish Volkswagen dealer SMC’s use of Ai’s installation was a “clear contradiction of the considerations and thoughts behind the work,” before adding that such misuse could be harmful to Ai’s reputation. The court ruled the Volkswagen dealership’s “use of the piece of art constituted a violation of the marketing law’s paragraph [ . . .] on good marketing practices.”