Skip to content
A screenshot of the Instagram post by Ai Weiwei about his lawsuit against Volkswagen
A screenshot of the Instagram post by Ai Weiwei about his lawsuit against Volkswagen

News -

Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei sues Volkswagen

Artist Ai Weiwei is suing carmaker Volkswagen for featuring his artwork as a backdrop for one of their advertisements.

The artist said Volkswagen used his artwork, Soleil Levant, without his permission, even though it was only in the background of an ad featuring one of their cars.

Soleil Levant, which Ai created for World Refugee Day, was installed at a building in Copenhagen in 2017.

The artwork is made up of stacks of 3,500 orange lifejackets used by refugees who fled to Lesvos, Greece. The lifejackets are stuffed into the window panels of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, a building in the city that functions as the official exhibition gallery of the Royal Danish Academy of Art.

Ai said he was not credited as the artist, and his artwork image was uncredited and cropped without permission. The infringing material was circulated to over 200,000 people, which Ai said gave the false impression that he had authorized Volkswagen to use his artwork in its ad for the new Polo car.

He wrote in a commentary in The Guardian that he faces serious consequences as an artist for this misuse of his art. According to Ai, the advertisement gave the false impression that he had given permission for his work about refugees to be used to sell Volkswagen’s cars. He felt this misrepresentation severely damages his artistic reputation.

The artist said he has been trying since November 2017 to resolve the matter with Volkswagen. But after more than a year of "fruitless negotiation" and "arrogant gestures to trivialize their guilt and dismiss the matter", he decided to take them to court.

Ai ended his Instagram post with his thoughts on intellectual property protection which we can get behind:

"Intellectual property protection lies at the heart of a society that values human invention and makes our useful accumulation of knowledge possible. Respect of intellectual property law is one cornerstone of a functioning international legal system. As one of the largest European companies, Volkswagen should understand these same laws. Volkswagen and other multinational corporations have tremendous bargaining power in intellectual property protection as well as environmental and human rights. They are not above the law."

A representative of Volkswagen Denmark told CNN that the company had conceded its mistake in depicting the artwork but was unable to reach a resolution with the Chinese artist, which is why they decided to go to court. 

Related links



Press contacts

Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

Press contact Managing Partner (+65) 6223 2249

Let your clients get the idea, without taking it.

PitchMark deters idea theft and provides you with options if it happens.

PitchMark protects the expression of your original concepts, designs, proposals, business plans, creative pitches, music - in short, any idea that you conceived and published, and claim as your own. It gives you peace-of-mind by signalling to whoever you share it with that you are its creator, and that you wish to be respected as such.

If you receive or evaluate ideas or pitches, join PitchMark as a sign of your commitment to respect the Intellectual Property rights of their creators. Attract more in-depth pitches from a wider range of sources. Highlight your PitchMark membership in your Sustainability or CSR Report.