|Olenicoff's copy of Wakefield's work|
In 2011 it emerged that Wakefield had found at least seven unauthorised copies of a unique, large-scale granite sculpture he had created in 1992 on properties owned by Olen Properties in Brea, Irvine and Newport Beach, California.
In his copyright complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Wakefield alleges that Olenicoff wrongly presented the work to the Public Art Department in the City of Brea, California, and to the public in general, as the work of a Chinese artist.
Following my publication in The Art Newspaper of Wakefield’s claims, another American artist, John Raimondi, came forward with similar allegations against Olenicoff. Raimondi has filed a separate copyright complaint against the property developer and his company.
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Don Wakefield says he has proof that Olenicoff was ordering copies of his work to be made in China and that he then submitted some of the sculptures to the Public Art Program in the City of Brea, California, bypassing the artists altogether, thereby saving himself significant expense.
Detroit-born Wakefield, who now lives in Southern California, found the first piece in 2008 but thought it was the original. He only realized his sculpture had been copied when he discovered three additional unauthorized copies in 2010 and three more in 2011. Later it emerged that several unauthorized copies of two different sculptures by east coast American artist John Raimondi were also found as a result of Wakefield’s investigation.
Wakefield believes that in terms of the size of the works — some being 25ft tall — the case represents one the largest copyright infringements in American legal history.
Both Wakefield and Raimondi are represented by attorneys Gene Brockland of law firm Herzog Crebs of St. Louis, Missouri and Mike Kuznetsky of Kuznetsky Law Group, Los Angeles. Both cases are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.