PARIS — The Joan Mitchell Foundation said it has sent a cease and desist letter to Louis Vuitton over the unauthorized use of the late U.S. artist’s paintings in an ad for the Capucines handbag featuring French actress Léa Seydoux.
The organization said it sent the letter on Tuesday after discovering that at least three works by Mitchell, currently on show at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, had been used without permission.
Officials at Vuitton and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the separate contemporary art museum sponsored by the French luxury brand’s parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, were not immediately available for comment.
The Joan Mitchell Foundation, which describes its purpose as cultivating the study and appreciation of Mitchell’s life and work, as well as supporting artists through grants and residencies, said Vuitton approached it several times starting late last year to request permission to use works by the artist in an upcoming advertising campaign. Mitchell died in 1992 at age 67.
“JMF denied this request in writing in accordance with its longstanding policy that images of the artist’s work be used only for educational purposes. JMF has never licensed the artist’s works for use in commercial campaigns or for the promotion of other goods or services. Louis Vuitton subsequently reiterated the request which was denied several times,” the nonprofit said in a statement.
It said that Vuitton nonetheless went ahead with the campaign. In one of the images, Seydoux is seen reclining in front of a portion of Mitchell’s colorful 1983 painting “La Grande Vallée XIV (For a Little While)” while toting a white Capucines handbag with a multicolored handle.
In a video on the Vuitton website, the “No Time to Die” star is shown in a room with French painter Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” paintings.
Running until Monday, the exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, titled “Monet-Mitchell,” juxtaposes the works of the two artists to create a dialogue around landscape and nature.
“By permitting these works to be photographed for this purpose and in this manner, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is in violation of its agreement with JMF,” the Joan Mitchell Foundation said.
“It is a grave disappointment to JMF that Louis Vuitton has such disregard for the rights of an artist and would exploit her work for financial gain. If Louis Vuitton does not promptly halt this campaign and cease the illegal use of Mitchell’s artworks, JMF will promptly take further legal action to address this matter,” it added.
Vuitton has highlighted its longstanding relationships with the art world through a series of recent initiatives, including a second high-profile collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, launched last month; a partnership with the Art Basel fair, and a temporary exhibition titled “LV Dream” at its Paris headquarters.
Inaugurated in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton marked the summit of LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault’s decade-long quest to construct an art museum in Paris. LVMH has a 55-year lease for the Frank Gehry-designed structure, but the landmark building is effectively a “gift” to the city.