The work of Chinese, US-based artist, Jingna Zhang has been plagiarised by a Luxembourgish student, Jeff Dieschburg, who appropriated her work and won a 1,500 EUR prize for it at the Strassen Biennial of Contemporary Art - an event supported by the Ministry of Culture.
Zhang is a photographer and an artist currently working in the United States, and was included in the Forbes' "30 under 30 Asia for Art & Style" in 2018.
In now-viral posts, the artist shows the photo of her work from 2017 in a side-by-side comparison with the plagiarised one, showcasing the obvious similarities between the two. Zhang also posted messages she received from Dieschburg written in Luxembourgish, in which the student proceeded to attempt and justify his actions and his derivative work.
As a consequence, another US artist, Bekka Björke, realised that Dieschburg had also previously appropriated her work, calling it “not inspiration, study, nor cheeky derivative art [but] personal profit at the expense of your contemporaries” on Twitter.
When we spoke to her this morning, she described Dieschburg's attitude as shocking and highly frustrating. She acknowledged that many students use her art as inspiration, but that at no point should derivative, plagiarised work be uncredited, and exhibited in commercial spaces, or even worse - put up for sale. The derivative work in mention was put up for for 6,500 EUR.
“To see someone praised, awarded, winning prize money, and shamelessly doing interviews while claiming credit despite copying so much of another person’s work… the audacity and utter disrespect. I don’t know how someone begins to think that this is ok and is something they can be proud of. I’m so speechless I can’t even begin to process what to do. Just insane.” she wrote on her Instagram post.
The municipality of Strassen is currently trying to defuse the situation. "A sworn expert has been appointed and is responsible for clarifying the case,” said Betty Welter-Gaul, president of the exhibition jury.
According to L’Essentiel, Dieschburg justified the use of his work, claiming it as “inspiration” and calling it common-practice. To make matters worse, L’Essentiel reports that the student has taken legal representation, causing more confusion and complications for the Chinese artist.
A member of the parliament, Sven Clement from Piratepartei, responded to the tweet proposing to "decrypt what went wrong" and offering his help in the matter.