Saudi artist sues Swatch for plagiarism of Hajj-inspired picture

Ahmed Mater, an artist and cofounder of the art initiative ‘Edge of Arabia,’ claims the watchmaker giant used his 2012 work ‘Magnetism I’

Asma Ajroudi
Asma Ajroudi - Al Arabiya News
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A famous Saudi artist is suing Swiss watchmaker Omega SA for copyright infringement amid claims that the company is “plagiarizing and exploiting” his art, according to French newspaper Quotidien de l’art.

Ahmed Mater, an artist and cofounder of the art initiative “Edge of Arabia,” claims the watchmaker giant used his 2012 work “Magnetism I” in one of its latest advertising campaigns.

Mater’s “Magnetism I” is a piece of work involving iron filings surrounding a black magnet.

In his series, the Saudi artist played on the concept of Hajj, the Muslim annual pilgrimage to Makkah, where the use of the black magnet was a reference to the Kaaba, a black-draped cube-shaped building at the center of the holy mosque.

Mater is well known for his poetic evocation of Hajj, which was featured in The British Museum.

The artist claims in his lawsuit, that the Omega advertisement campaign replaced the Kaaba with a Seamaster Aqua Terra watch, according to Quotidien de l’art.

In legal documents acquired by the Quotidien de l’art, Mater’s lawyer, Michel Dutilleul-Francoeur, reportedly said the artist could not have authorized the commercial use of his artwork given its sensitive religious theme.

“Omega SA has destroyed several years of work by letting the public believe that [Mater] is mocking religion,” Dutilleul-Francoeur said.

The Saudi artist’s French legal team have reportedly requested $1.5 million in damages.

But the watchmaking company does not seem to be worried about the lawsuit, which was filed at the Paris’ civil Grand Instance Court.

Brastien Buss, head of communications at Swatch Group LTD, Omega SA’s parent company told Al Arabiya News: “As a matter of principle, we do not comment on an ongoing legal case. However, we are convinced to be in the right.”

“Regarding the picture, it is underlining the advantages of the anti-magnetism of an Omega watch.”

“For the first time in history, a watch resists to magnetic fields of over 15,000 gauss - a great technological accomplishment. What these metallic particles show is that they clearly cannot approach the watch, thus demonstrating the magnetic resistance. In every reference manual, anti-magnetism is illustrated in the same way,” Buss added.

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