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Homage or plagiarism? Solbi’s cake ignites debate

A screenshot shows Kwon Ji-an eating her controversial cake. (Instagram)
A screenshot shows Kwon Ji-an eating her controversial cake. (Instagram)

Singer and artist Kwon Ji-an, better known as Solbi, sought to stifle allegations that she had plagiarized artist Jeff Koons’ famous sculpture Play-Doh by uploading a video on Instagram of herself eating the cake at the center of the case.

Kwon uploaded an almost 10-minute video on Monday that shows her opening a cake box and eating the cake in silence before ending the video with the phrase, “Just a cake, Seoul.”
Kwon Ji-an makes the controversial cake. (Instagram)
Kwon Ji-an makes the controversial cake. (Instagram)

A previous post on Dec. 22, showing Kwon making the cake, sparked the controversy. The post had the caption “I made this cake in my own way,” and one of the hashtags read “#TakingOrders.” It did not mention Jeff Koons.

When people said in comments on Kwon’s post and in other internet communities that she had plagiarized Jeff Koons’ work and was planning to sell it, Kwon edited the post to explicitly state that the cake was inspired by Koons’ Play-Doh and was not for sale. 
Play-Doh by Jeff Koons (Jeff Koons’ website)
Play-Doh by Jeff Koons (Jeff Koons’ website)

“I made my own cake in a more free way after seeing children play with clay and getting inspiration from Jeff Koons’ ‘Play-Doh.’ I didn’t think this would become such an issue ^^,” Kwon wrote.

She also deleted the hashtag #TakingOrders.

“Solbi, of course, knew of Jeff Koons’ work. She tagged modern art and thought many would be familiar with it since Jeff Koons is such a famous person. She edited the post in order to give an explanation because the post unexpectedly came under controversy,” Lee Mi-hyun, director of Kwon’s agency, M.A.P Crew, told The Korea Herald on Tuesday. “Doesn’t everyone know ‘I’ll be back’ is from the movie ‘Terminator’ without being it being saying so? We thought that it didn’t need to be referenced each time.”

As the cake continued to come under controversy, with people debating whether it pays homage to Jeff Koons or plagiarizes his work, Kwon posted the video of herself eating the cake. In doing so, she appears to have done two things: prove that she did not sell the cake, and pay homage to another work -- a famous video of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King Whopper.

However, the cake-eating video failed to quell the criticism. Many continued to write negative comments on Kwon’s Instagram page, leading her to disable comments within an hour of posting the video.

By Lim Jang-won and Park Yuna (ljw@heraldcorp.com, yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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