Forging a career in the artworld is no walk in the park. It takes hard work, commitment and bucket loads of self-belief. Sadly, and more common than you may realise, making a living is made even harder when an artist’s work is used without consent and without the appropriate payment. On 13th April 2021, two artists decided to file a $5 million law suit against the self-proclaimed celeb chef ‘Salt Bae’ for illegally using their work on all manner of promotional goods.
The two artists in question are Logan Hicks and Joe Iurato, who back in 2017, were commissioned by internet star and chef to the celebs Salt Bae to produce a piece of art for his restaurant in New York. The artwork of the chef captured him in his weird-but-now-famous-sprinkling-salt-pose.
Following this piece they were commissioned again to produce others for his restaurants in Miami and in Doha. At this point the business relationship was fine. They did the work, they got paid.
According to Logan in a statement on his Facebook page, “Each commission came with a signed contract dictating the terms of the usage, where it could be located, what it could be used for and who retained the copyright (it’s us)”.
Now this is where the problem occurs. It appears that ‘Salt Bae’ decided to ignore all this small print and go ahead and use the artwork on pretty much anything he fancied including branding for his low end Salt Bae burger joints, a range of salt and spice products, menus, take out bags and even wet wipes!
As a result of this breach, Logan Hicks and Joe Iurato sought the help of legal firm KG Law and on 13th April 2021 filed a $5 million lawsuit against Salt Bae for unlawful use of their artwork.
Salt Bae, real name Nusret Gökçe, became an internet viral sensation when videos showing him wowing celebs, as he removes clean bones from cuts of meat and sprinkling salt in his own unique style, began popping up on social media.
According to one of the pages from the law suit, Salt Bae is now worth over $50 million and owns 15 luxury restaurants where you can purchase a 24 karat gold leaf encrusted steak for the bargain price of $1,000.
As you can imagine, artists Hicks and Iurato are not amused by this blatant illegal use of their work and we completely understand why they felt the need to take a stand. Companies need to start working with artists rather than using these underhand tactics and assuming we’re just going to sit back and allow it to happen.
Fingers crossed Salt Bae gets his just desserts (apologies for the pun) and that it sends a message to all companies out there that think artwork is free to use without the artist’s permission.