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San Francisco artist believes new downtown food hall copied his design

A San Francisco artist says the art at the city’s new downtown food hall looks “like a carbon copy” of his own style and he doesn’t think it’s an accident.

As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Lahan, who lives and has an art studio in San Francisco, said his phone was bombarded on Thursday with friends messaging him photos of the branding at San Francisco’s new Saluhall food hall.

The food hall, which opened this week, is run by Ingka Centres which operates the Ikea that shares the building on Market Street.

Saluhall is covered in branding which shows minimalistic outlines of eyes, ears, noses, and mouths.

“It looked almost exactly like something I would do or have done for the New Yorker for example, I did a whole series of these illustrations for them,” said Lahan of the art at Saluhall. Lahan said that no one from Saluhall had contacted him about this project or about his art.

He described the branding in Saluhall as “almost like a carbon copy of that style, down to like the fidelity of the line work and how I approach that and everything.”

“It was really jarring, it was weird,” Lahan said.

(Left) An image of a design by Tim Lahan. Image courtesy Tim Lahan. (Right) An image of the design in the Saluhall food court in San Francisco.

Lahan explained that he has been working on his own concept and design playing with abstract elements of faces for more than a decade.

“I really tried to strip down to the core elements of what make a face,” he explained.

In addition to the New Yorker project, Lahan says he’s done a series in that style called “Making Faces,” all of which feature bold outlines of eyes, mouths, noses, ears, and more. Lahan notes that he’s structured these designs with soft edges to be easier on the eye.

Lahan said of the Salulhall branding, “Not only is the line quality identical to how I would do it, the concept in and of itself is something that I am known for.”

“It’s absolutely not an accident,” Lahan said of all the similarities between the Saluhall branding and his designs.

Because the Saluhall designs are already all over the new food hall, Lahan doesn’t foresee the operator taking down all the branding anytime soon.

“But I am pursuing legal action to see what steps I can take to rectify the situation,” Lahan said.

Larry Townsend, a copyright and trademark attorney with Owen, Wickersham & Erickson in the Bay Area, said of the designs in question: “Based upon what I’ve seen, it’s a fairly simple image, but it’s probably sufficient creativity that would be protected by copyright.”

Townsend explained that in copyright infringement cases, an artist typically can make a strong case if they can prove their work was sufficiently accessible and that the other party had the potential to see their work.

A spokesperson for Ikea said in a statement to NBC Bay Area, “This matter was just brought to our attention and we are looking into it.”

As for Lahan he feels particularly disappointed to see this from a project positioned as celebrating San Francisco and revitalizing downtown.

“It’s supposed to be this thing like ‘oh the community!’” he said of Saluhall.

“I’m part of the community!” he emphasized. “And you’re actually damaging my reputation by ripping off my work like this.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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