One of our featured works gets a lot of attention from those that walk through the doors of our art gallery. Drawn to the west wall, they examine the piece with an expression of deep thought. After a few minutes of thinking (and sometimes with a little reminder from us), they realize that they’ve seen it on the silver screen – or at least a version of it.
Frederick Hart’s sculpture Ex Nihilo is considered the pinnacle achievement of his career. With the original located above the entrance to the Washington National Cathedral in our nation’s capital, this work shows the creation of man, swirling figures emerging from chaos and turmoil. It is flanked by two smaller pieces depicting the creation of day and night. Together, these three sculptures tell the story of God creating man and the earth.
This is where a little conflict arose between the art world and silver screen. Hart filed a lawsuit against Warner Brothers and TimeWarner for copyright infringement and unauthorized use of his famous sculpture. The 1997 film The Devil’s Advocate, starring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, has multiple scenes that have a work of art in the background with striking similarities to Hart’s Ex Nihilo. Not only had the companies used a likeness of Ex Nihilo without Hart’s permission, but they used it in a context that reinforced ideals that were literally the exact opposite of the works inspiration.
Hart was successful in his suit against Hollywood and the DVD release had to incorporate more than 20 minutes of digital changes to the film. They were able to edit out certain scenes and use CGI technology to change the images enough to make the artwork distinct from Hart’s work. Even though they differ, there are still enough similarities to cause most people to remember glimpses of it in film that’s nearly 20 years old; which speaks volumes to the impact of Hart’s work.
Though a settlement was reached out of court to change the movie, there were still 475,000 copies that were made for DVD release prior to the settlement which contained the original shots.
So, if you find one, hold on to it. You’ve got a piece of history in art and film controversy.
About Gallery Forty-Two
Past and present meet to create an immersive and captivating experience in this stunning Indianapolis art gallery. Offering more than three thousand square-feet of gallery and event space, our new renovation honors both the legacy of historical architecture and the fine art traditions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Gallery Forty-Two is committed to providing the discerning art collector an excellent source of artworks that combine the brilliance of inspiration with the spirit of antiquity.