Why did Ulay sue Marina Abramović?

Marina Abramović, hailed as the world’s foremost performance artist, became embroiled in a legal battle with her former partner and collaborator Ulay over a dispute over both financial matters and the allocation of credit for their early collaborative works.

The legal proceedings started in November 2015, when Ulay took Abramović to court, claiming that she had not adequately compensated him in accordance with the terms set out in a 1999 contract that governed the sale of their joint artistic creations.

The crux of the case revolved around the royalties owed to Ulay for the sale of their joint artworks. The dispute reached its peak in September 2016 when a court in Amsterdam issued a judgment in Ulay’s favor.

The court determined that Ulay was entitled to royalties of 20% net on sales of their joint works, as stipulated in the original 1999 contract.

As a result of the ruling, Abramović was ordered to pay Ulay an amount of more than €250,000 in retroactive royalties. In addition to the financial compensation, she was ordered to reimburse the legal costs of more than € 23,000.

In addition to the financial aspect of the dispute, the court’s decision also delved into the domain of artistic attribution. Abramović was commissioned to provide full accreditation for their joint works during specific periods.

Works created between 1976 and 1980, collectively credited as “Ulay/Abramović,” would receive proper recognition. Likewise, works produced between 1981 and 1988 and credited as “Abramović/Ulay” were also to be recognized accordingly.

The legal proceedings and subsequent verdict have highlighted the tangled complexities that can arise in the aftermath of artistic collaborations, especially when financial arrangements and award agreements come into question.

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