Art TikTok Calls Out Plagiarism on Display at Guggenheim Bilbao

Art TikTok Calls Out Plagiarism on Display at Guggenheim Bilbao

by Bailey Richards

This past weekend, Spanish artist Gala Knörr was called out on social media for plagiarizing — or, at the very least, failing to acknowledge that she was inspired by — the work of Black, queer artist dayday.

The paintings that she was accused of plagiarizing have been on view through the Basque Artist Program at the Guggenheim Bilbao since July 8, and it didn’t take long after their debut for people to pick up on the glaring similarities between Knörr’s paintings, particularly “Young Cowboy Gazing,” and dayday’s short-film Blue. Knörr named Black horsewoman Brianna Noble as a source of inspiration for the paintings, but there was no mention of dayday or Blue in the original artist statement.

Blue is a film about Black cowboys that discusses segregation, whitewashing and Black erasure in the history of cowboys and rodeo. The six-minute-long film was recently featured in Your Attention Please, a Hulu series that explores “Black innovators and creators who are leaving their mark on the world”, and can also be viewed on Vimeo. It features narration from Ezekiel Mitchell, a professional bull rider, and commentary from Dr. Demetrius W. Pearson, an associate professor with rodeo expertise.

On July 9, Hannah Swayze, a producer who worked on Blue, posted an Instagram story — which was then shared by dayday — that included side-by-sides of stills from Blue and Knörr’s paintings, their resemblance undeniable. dayday also posted a screenshot of the museum’s original artist statement for “Young Cowboy Gazing” with the text: “I want to believe she meant well. But how do you write a statement like this and NOT acknowledge the original artist???”

Several TikTokers also joined the conversation. Animation director Bona Bones, artist Xen and art curator Alexis Hyde — who says their original video about the situation got taken down for bullying — have all posted videos criticizing Knörr, and Bones’ received almost half a million views.

Several people pointed out the hypocrisy of Knörr, a white artist, perpetuating Black erasure through her work, which is the very issue she said she wanted to highlight.

“This white woman artist is out there trying to talk about erased Black history while she is actively erasing Black history,” Hyde said in a now-removed TikTok.

Blue assistant director Nachela Knox also commented on the situation, telling Rolling Stone: “She could have used that opportunity to highlight the team or highlight [Isaac Redfearn, the Blue actor Knörr portrayed in her paintings], and unfortunately, she didn’t.” Knox added that “it makes the intention of the art and her message very questionable.”

On July 13, dayday, Knörr and the museum reached a solution. Rather than taking down Knörr’s paintings, Blue will now be exhibited alongside the artist statement, which now also says that Knörr “directly incorporates images inspired from the 5-minute film Blue (2022).” And while dayday themself shared the “reparative solution” the group reached, not everyone agrees with it:

While Knörr hasn’t said much about the situation — and even took down nearly all of her existing posts — she did share an apology in a statement provided to Rolling Stone:

“This was a very huge mistake I did and explained to dayday that this was not ill intentioned whatsoever, it was me not making sure they were credited and for that, I’m very sorry,” she wrote. “I want to thank dayday and Guggenheim for rectifying this in cooperation and kindness.”

Photo via Twitter