U.K.-based street and performance artist Banksy is accusing clothing maker Guess of stealing his work and is calling on people to shoplift from the retailer's store on Regent Street in London.
"Attention all shoplifters," Banksy wrote in a recent Instagram post. "Please go to Guess on Regent Street. They've helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong for you to do the same to their clothes?"
Banksy, whose identity is anonymous, claims the American clothing brand released a capsule collection of clothing featuring his designs, including his "Flower Thrower" motif, without his permission. The items range in cost from about $47 to $319 each, according to a Guess press release.
Guess chief creative officer Paul Marciano said the collection "is a way for fashion to show its gratitude" to the artist.
The collection features iconic Banksy motifs on men's, women's and children's pieces and is available for purchase online and in stores in the European Union. In a press release announcing the collection, Guess, said it was "inspired by Banksy's Graffiti."
Guess partnered with Brandalised, a licensing company that secures the rights to famous graffiti designs and sells them to fans through partnerships with commercial brands, to release the collection.
Neither company responded to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment.
On Tuesday, a salesperson at the Guess store on Regent Street responded to erroneous reports that the retail store had temporarily closed its doors over the Banksy controversy, saying "we are open and we never closed."
Right to stay anonymous
In 2020, the artist's application to trademark "Flower Thrower," was rejected by the European Union's Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) because securing the copyright would have required him to reveal his undisclosed identity.
But a 2021 ruling by the EUIPO declaring invalid Banky's trademark on a spray-painted work of a chimpanzee wearing a sign titled, "Laugh Now But One Day We'll Be In Charge," was overturned this month by a European Board of appeals, industry news outlet ArtNews reported.
The victory gives the artist the right to license his work while maintaining his anonymity.
It's unclear if Guess and Brandalised are authorized to sell apparel featuring Banksy's designs, but both companies' silence suggests they may not have a deal with the artist to license his work, according to William Miles, a U.K.-based copyright and trademark lawyer.
"The fact that Banksy told people to shoplift from Guess and he said they took his artworks suggests they weren't authorized to license it," Miles told CBS MoneyWatch. "It's a strange thing for Guess to have done, knowing clearly that it would generate a lot of bad publicity."
for more features.