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Does Guess Have the Right to Use Banksy’s Artwork?

Graffiti artist Banksy has lashed out at denim brand Guess.

The artist, who remains anonymous, requested on Instagram on Friday that people shoplift at the Guess store on Regent Street in London after its windows featured clothes with his artwork that was created with a cooperation with Brandalised, a third-party licensor of designs by graffiti artists that does not seem to have the rights to Banksy’s work.

“Attention all shoplifters. Please go to Guess store on Regent Street. They’ve helped themselves to my artwork without asking, how can it be wrong to do the same for their clothes?” read Banksy’s post that has been liked by more than 1.7 million accounts.

The window featured his most famous artwork, The Flower Thrower, Flower Bomber, Rage, or Love is in the Air. Painted on a wall in Bethlehem, it portrays a masked man about to throw a bouquet of flowers as if it were a grenade. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) panel said it ruled against granting an E.U. trademark for the work because Banksy could not be identified as the unquestionable owner of such works because his identity remains hidden.

After the post, Guess temporarily closed the store to the public, covered up the windows and is currently not selling the capsule on its website. It is still being stocked at the store however.

“The graffiti of Bansky has had a phenomenal influence that resonates throughout popular culture,” said Guess co-founder Paul Marciano in a press release announcing the collection earlier this month. “This new capsule collection with Brandalised is a way for fashion to show its gratitude.”

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“Banksy makes art, which generally speaking can be defined as something that didn’t exist before and that works in a specific location. Merchandise is taking one of these pieces of art and sticking it on a photo canvas or toilet roll holder,” said the site of Pest Control, which handles Banksy’s work. “Banksy doesn’t do merchandise. So weirdly, if something looks like a ‘Banksy product’ it almost certainly isn’t,” it added.

Guess x Brandalised

According to the Brandalised website, the company has worked with fashion labels such as Kappa, Bape and Evisu in the past.

“It isn’t known if Banksy approved or even knew about this deal. If he did know about it, then perhaps his comments are there to create some kind of guerrilla marketing campaign,” copyright lawyer Liz Ward told the BBC. “If he didn’t know about it, then he must be quite annoyed, especially as such mainstream companies and brands don’t accord with his anti-establishment views.”

Guess has not replied to Rivet’s request for comment.