Angelique Hartigan told the Evening Standard that she was seeking legal advice after the Gipsy Hill workshop in Crystal Palace, where she was based until May, allegedly sold the carpets as her by her hand.
Hartigan, who is now based in Malden, Essex, told the paper: "There was some kind of yard sale at the Gipsy Hill studio, after I left, and some people I knew saw it and said 'what's this and why has Angelique made this?' They didn't know what was going on because my name was on it.
"I sent an email immediately to say 'what are you doing? You didn't ask me, stop doing this' and 'write to the people you have sold them to and find out where they are. I want all the pieces back because I don't want them out there'."
The studio has denied the allegations.
Hartigan's barrister, Mark Engleman, head of intellectual property at Hardwicke Chambers, said the dispute could raises the issues of copyright, false attribution and whether the carpet was her "intellectual creation".
"Angelique's carpet was created entirely by accident," he told the Evening Standard. "But if there is no copyright there are no moral rights because, whilst far from clear, the law seemingly, at first glance, only confers moral rights. This includes the right to prevent false attribution to a work."
ATG asked Celia Lloyd Davidson, Head of UK Art Law at Withers Worldwide, for a legal opinion on artistic copyright: "Artists are increasingly aware that they need to be cautious in protecting the integrity of their work, and their personal brand."
She added that one "unfortunate consequence" of being a successful artists is "third parties seeking to market and reproduce ephemera, archive works, and even moulds or plates without authorisation".
Lloyd Davidson gives her advice on the matter below.
Legal protection of artists' ephemera and materials: what artists and dealers need to know
- an artist can rely on their moral rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988;
- for sketches, preparatory drawings and other documents and objects, it can be useful to consider who owns the copyright. This is owned separately to the physical piece, and may still belong to the artist as creator;
- it may also be possible for well-known artists to argue that using their name, goodwill and reputation without permission is a form of 'passing off'; trade mark infringement under English law;
- Artists and their representatives may also be able to raise issues with authentication. There have been high-profile instances of contemporary artists refusing to accredit work for sale on the secondary market where they feel it has been subject to treatment that has distorted it, or where it has been acquired in bad faith.
Celia Lloyd Davidson, Head of UK Art Law, Withers Worldwide