Chen Sung-Chih may be the latest artist to have a work knocked off in mainland China—although in this case the alleged imitator is a global beauty brand. The Taipei-based gallery Project Fulfill Art Space is alleging that Mac Cosmetics China copied Chen’s installation work Untitled-WZ (2019) for a lipstick promotion. A statement released by the Taipei gallery on 17 July claims that Mac’s parent company Estée Lauder initially approached the gallery requesting to adapt the work (a room containing empty vitrines with a dusting of silver glitter), to promote its Powder Kiss Lipstick, but then proceeded to do so without permission.
The promotion, similar to the original work but in pink, “took place in the same exhibition building where [Mac] saw Sung Chih’s work,” says Peiyu Lin, the director of Project Fulfill. Untitled-WZ was part of the 2019 Wuzhen Contemporary Art Exhibition (31 March-30 June). “That’s where Mac saw the piece when they went for a site visit for their event,” which ran until 19 July, Lin says. “Mac got my contact through the [exhibition] organiser, and we started to communicate.”
According to the statement, marketing staff of the Chinese affiliate of Estée Lauder Companies, emailed Project Fulfill on 17 May to suggest the collaboration based on Untitled-WZ. Chen Sung-Chih and the gallery responded saying: “This is an artwork. The artist is willing to make changes to a certain extent, but must authorise and agree to any alteration.” The gallery subsequently sent a fee quote and production specifications to an Estée Lauder representative, but received no reply. “Without an agreement amongst the three parties involved, Project Fulfill Art Space regarded the collaboration as unsuccessful and hence invalid,” the statement reads. Estée Lauder and its affiliates in mainland China and Taiwan did not respond to requests for comment from The Art Newspaper.
Lin says: “I wrote this statement to protect my artist.” Lin specifies that the person who contacted the gallery was from Mac Cosmetics China, Estée Lauder (Shanghai) Commercial Co., Ltd. “And I also sent the statement to the Vice President/General Manager of Mac, Asia-Pacific; the President of Estée Lauder Companies China Affiliate; and the Global General Manager of Mac Cosmetics—but none of them responded.”
Lin says: “We demand an open statement from Estée Lauder Companies China Affiliate to apologise to Project Fulfill Art Space and the artist Chen Sung-Chih in order to restore our reputation and correct any misunderstanding that may arise. We also demand Estée Lauder Companies China Affiliate to investigate and affix accountability for those responsible for the infringement.”