Judge Rules MetaBirkin NFTs Cannot Be Displayed at Museum in Stockholm

A US district judge for the Southern District of New York denied a request for MetaBirkins to be displayed at a museum in Stockholm, citing a lack of details about how the exhibition would describe the NFTs to the public.

Last February, Hermès won a lawsuit against Mason Rothschild (aka Sonny Estival) concerning Rothschild’s NFT collection “MetaBirkins,” 3D renderings of the company’s iconic Birkin bag covered in fur in a variety of patterns.

A jury ruled that Rothschild’s NFTs failed a test that would allow them to be considered art. The luxury handbag company was set to be awarded $133,000 in damages. Hermès also sought a permanent injunction against Rothschild, which was granted in June.

Related Articles

A white man in a striped green shirt holds his hands and makes a confused face. He is in a room that is lined with intersecting figures in black silhouettes; it has a pole in its centered that has been graffitied with black. Hanging on its walls are vibrantly colored T-shirts.

Documents filed on March 13 detail how Rothschild inquired about whether the injunction would prohibit him from providing permission to the Spritmuseum to display the MetaBirkins. The works were to appear on a screen in an Andy Warhol exhibition and his practice of Business Art.

According to Rothschild, the contemporary art and spirits museum had contacted him just before Christmas last year about displaying the MetaBirkins on a screen, “just as the images are available on the Internet.”

Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled that based on evidence, “the Court cannot conclude” that the MetaBirkins would steer clear of the injunction’s terms, as Rothschild did not provide details about what permissions he would be granting Spritmuseum for things like promotion of the show or related merchandise. There were also no contracts or documents outlining the agreement Rothschild had with the museum or the scope of permissions granted to the institution in Stockholm.

The court documents also state the sworn testimony by Spritmuseum curator Mia Sundberg and Blake Gopnik, a New York–based critic enlisted to organize the Warhol show, only raised more concerns about Rothschild’s request.

Sundberg said the museum had not yet decided whether it would discuss the Hermès lawsuit in the text of the exhibition. While the text would be written “in an open-ended way,” she said, “I would not be telling my public that this is an artist who is a fraud. That would not be a way of expressing myself in a text in an exhibition.”

Gopnik was retained by Rothschild as an expert witness during the trial, but the court excluded his testimony, “finding it did not remotely comply with the requirement of Federal Rule of Evidence.” Shortly after the ruling last February, Gopnik also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post op-ed titled “A misguided jury failed to see the art in Mason Rothschild’s MetaBirkins“.

The judge singled out two lines from Gopnik’s op-ed that indicated he was “openly hostile” to the jury’s verdict last year: “I couldn’t see any real difference between Rothschild and the many artists, good and bad, who made art about our culture’s commerce, often by including trademarked goods” and “I was wrong about that jury but hope an appeals court will realize that the jury was wrong about Rothschild’s art.”

As a result of their testimony, the judge expressed “deep concerns” that allowing Rothschild to provide permission to the Spritmuseum would “likely to lead the public to believe that ‘MetaBirkins’ NFTs or related merchandise are in [some] manner associated or connected with Hermes and/or its ‘Birkin’ trademark and/or trade dress.”

The Spritmuseum and Sundberg did not respond to press inquiries by ARTnews.

News of the judge’s decision was first reported by Bloomberg Law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *