But Cartain, the moniker for the teenage artist, has earned the ire of Damien Hirst for incorporating photographic images of his platinum cast of a human skull, For the Love of God, into his graffiti prints. The two artists have become locked in an unlikely art clash that has led Hirst to demand recompense from the teenager for selling £200 worth of images of his skull without permission, says Private Eye magazine.
In spite of his tender years, Cartrain's graffiti can be seen on the backstreets of east London's Brick Lane and Old Street, and his stencils and collages containing recognisable figures such as George Bush and the Queen are sold alongside other emerging artists. He made a series of collages using photographs of Hirst's skull, some of which imposed the bejewelled sculpture over the faces of figures taken from other photographs. One showed the skull in a shopping basket alongside some carrots. The images were displayed in the online gallery, 100artworks.com, where Cartrain's collages sell for £65, on average.
He was surprised to learn Hirst had not only seen the work but also contacted the Design and Artists Copyright Society (Dacs), who apparently informed the young artist he had infringed Hirst's copyright. The older man has reportedly demanded that Cartrain not only remove the works from sale but "deliver up" originals, along with any profit made on those sold, or face legal action.
Cartrain said: "I made a few collages and my gallery put them up for sale online. After two weeks, the gallery received an email from Dacs stating I had infringed Damien Hirst's copyright on the title of the work (For the Love of God) and that I was to forfeit £200 in fees and the artworks. I handed over the artworks to Dacs on the advice of my gallery. I met Christian Zimmermann [from Dacs] who told me Hirst personally ordered action on the matter."On his internet forum, Cartrain commended those buyers who managed to secure one of his collages featuring the skull. "Well done to everyone that purchased one before Hirst got involved," he wrote.Dacs refused to comment.
But Hirst's complaint was seen as ironic by some in the art world, given the controversy surrounding the provenance of his skull. Three weeks after the artist unveiled the £50m sculpture, another artist, John LeKay, claimed he had been producing similar jewel-encrusted skulls since 1993. LeKay, who said he had been a friend of Hirst's between 1992 and 1994, said: "When I heard he was doing it, I felt like I was being punched in the gut. When I saw the image online, I felt that a part of me was in the piece. I was a bit shocked."The 46-year-old London-born artist used crystal to make his skulls glisten. He was quoted as saying: "When the light hits it, it looks as if it is covered in diamonds."
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Damien Hirst has been accused of copying yet another artist’s ideas. Three weeks after the artist unveiled his diamond-encrusted skull with a price of £50 million, another artist, John LeKay, has told The Times that he has been producing similar jewel-encrusted skulls since 1993 (see image 2, left). He also believes that it is not the only one of his ideas that Hirst has used in some way. LeKay, a 46-year-old Londoner who lives in New York, created 25 of the skulls in 1993. Inspired by Mayan skulls, he used crystal to make his skull glisten. “When the light hits it, it looks as if it is covered in diamonds,” he said. Over the years, he has explored the idea repeatedly, covering skulls made of soap and wax with artificial diamonds and Swarovski crystals.