Artist Sues Museum of Sex For Using Photo of Them Without Consent in Ads

artist sues museum of sex using photo kissing ex-girlfriend without consent

An artist has sued the Museum of Sex in New York City for using a photo of them kissing their ex-girlfriend without consent in its ad campaign.

Last year, the Museum of Sex placed ads with an image that showed artist Julia Sinelnikova kissing their ex-girlfriend in subways, bus shelters, and sidewalk LED displays across New York.

The photograph was accompanied by text inviting visitors to “journey into the erotic carnival” at the Museum of Sex in New York.

However, according to The New York Times, Sinelnikova has filed a lawsuit against the Museum of Sex for allegedly using this photograph of them in marketing materials without their permission.

In the lawsuit, sculptor Sinelnikova claims they were casually dating Cornelia Singer, an employee of the Museum of Sex, in September 2019 when they went to visit her at work.

Sinelnikova alleges that they kissed just as a photo shoot was taking place in the museum’s Superfunland exhibition.

According to the artist, a photographer took their picture as they were mid-kiss and the Museum of Sex used the image in its ad campaign without their permission.

Sinelnikova says they never signed a release giving the museum permission to use the image — which shows the artist kissing Singer while bathed in soft magenta light and seated in front of a roulette wheel framed by the words “Museum of Sex.”

‘A Photo Seen By Millions’

Sinelnikova saw the images in promotional materials for the museum’s Superfunland exhibition in 2019 and let it slide at the time.

However, late last year, the artist discovered through acquaintances that the photograph had been used on ads across New York and posters outside the Museum of Sex as well as on its website and social media accounts.

Hyperallergic reports that Sinelnikova contacted the museum’s founder and Executive Director Daniel Gluck in January and requested a fee of $25,000 in compensation for the use of the image.

Gluck reportedly replied that he was “dumbfounded” that no one had sought permission and apologized to the artist for the “unauthorized use of your image.” He offered to pay “ideally something less than $2,000,” claiming that $25,000 was “way too much for us right now.”

Sinelnikova declined this offer, telling Gluck that the $2,000 fee was unfair. Now the artist has filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court seeking at least $250,000 in damages for the use of this photograph.

The museum “did not tell [Sinelnikova] that the photographs would be used commercially or for advertising purposes at any time,” the lawsuit states.

Yet according to Sinelnikova, “the photo has been seen by hundreds of thousands or millions of New Yorkers and visitors to New York.”

Consent in Art and Photography

Sinelnikova’s lawyer Andrew Muchmore tells The New York Times that the problems of consent that Sinelnikova faced with this ad campaign are part of a wider issue in the art world.

“This is an industry where the economics are often tight,” Muchmore says.

“And that sometimes results in artists’ being exploited. Whether it was intentional or unintentional, it is not legally appropriate to use someone’s image in a marketing campaign without payment or permission.”

In a statement to the publication, the Museum of Sex acknowledged that Sinelnikova had not signed a release but maintained that the artist had been aware that the 2019 museum photo session “was a professional shoot, as well as what the images from it would be used for.”

The museum says that it did not know there was no release until Sinelnikova contacted them in January seeking compensation. Other subjects were paid for their participation, but Sinelnikova was not.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.