photo by France Cantin, re-blogged from The Montreal Gazette, article by Richard Burnett
The large historic building at the corner of Hotel de Ville and St. Catherine streets is the nerve center of Under Pressure, home of Montreal’s annual Under Pressure festival whose mission is to promote this city’s best graffiti artists. But this week Under Pressure co-founder Sterling Downey – a longtime advocate for legal graffiti art – is upset that Chevrolet has used graffiti art from Under Pressure in the automaker’s “Mixed and Mastered” ad campaign for the Chevrolet Sonic without permission or compensation.
The “Mixed and Mastered” video ad for the Chevrolet Sonic (see the YouTube link below) uses graffiti art spray-painted by iconic Montreal artist and graffiti master Zilon at the 2010 Under Pressure festival – and Downey says the same ad campaign also uses Under Pressure artwork by other Under Pressure artists. “Nobody owns the right to those images except the artists, not even Under Pressure – we just own the festival,” says Downey.
So Downey wants Chevrolet – who Downey says hired advertising agencies MacLaren McCann and Cossette to create and produce Chevy’s “Mixed and Mastered” campaign – to pay compensation for the use of these images. Downey says Cossette contacted him via Facebook after comments about the campaign were posted on Chevrolet Canada’s Facebook page.
“Ford approached us last year [to sponsor Under Pressure] and we declined and now we are forcibly associated with Chevrolet,” Downey says. “So why would any other automaker want to partner with us now? They’ve affected the credibility of the festival. And artists think we sold them out. Zilon could say, ‘How could you sell my image?’ Now we are being attacked and hurt as a festival. So we need to react.”
Downey says he is prepared to settle with Chevrolet. “First and foremost we want the artists compensated for damages for the use of their images,” Downey says. “We can discuss festival compensation later.”
If that’s the case, compensation could run into the tens of thousands of dollars: Under Pressure’s annual title sponser fee is $30,000 per year and Zilon himself gets paid thousands of dollars for many of his paintings.
As far as Zilon is concerned, France Cantin – Zilon’s agent for special events and projects – says, “There are a lot of artists involved [in this case], so [first] we’re going to wait and see what happens between Cossette and Under Pressure.”
Cantin adds, “This is very disappointing. They made a mistake. But it’s not in the culture right now to respect the rights of visual artists. You don’t use a song without permission. In the case of these Under Pressure artists they were not asked for their permission. This should not have happened.”
About settling the matter soon, Downey feels they are not being taken seriously. “We’re treading lightly,” he says. “But now we’re getting fed up.”