Irish artist seeks copyright to his iconic portrait of Che Guevara

Wed, Feb 16, 2011, 00:00

RENOWNED ARTIST Jim Fitzpatrick has launched a legal bid to finally secure the rights to his famous picture of Che Guevara.

The artist, also known for his Thin Lizzy album covers, never received royalties for his iconic black-and-red 1968 picture of the Argentine revolutionary, based on a photograph by Alberto Korda.

The image has featured around the world on everything from T-shirts to cereal boxes to movie promotions.

Art expert Dr Martin Kemp has rated the portrait among the world’s top 10 iconic images, which include those of Christ and the Mona Lisa.

Fitzpatrick said he wants to establish ownership of the image so he can hand over the rights to the Guevara family and the Cuban people. He is at an advanced stage of drawing up legal papers with barrister and Fianna Fáil TD Michael Mulcahy.

“There’s no question the image is one of the biggest in the world alongside the likes of Coke but I have never sought any royalties for it. I have decided now is the time and I am hoping to have the copyright in place when I visit Che’s wife Aleida in Cuba in September for the opening of the Che Guevara Cultural Centre in Havana,” Fitzpatrick said.

Although the picture was based on a photograph, Fitzpatrick’s work differs from the Korda photograph, and is an original work of art to which copyright can be established, Mr Mulcahy said.

“People ask Jim all the time why he never took out a copyright on the picture but that’s just Jim for you. He isn’t interested in money . . . Everyone has exploited the image down through the years and now Jim feels it’s time to make the image do some good around the world,” he said.

Fitzpatrick has just completed the production of 995 limited, signed and numbered silk screen prints from the original artwork. The first numbered artwork will be presented to Guevara’s wife.

He said he was looking forward to travelling to Cuba and hoped the copyright issue would be settled so he can officially hand the copyright image over to Guevara’s family and the people of Cuba.

“The Cuba Support Group and Simon McGuinness have been so supportive of this dream I have, and I am hoping to fulfil it in September.

“I want to finally say thank you to the people of Cuba for all they have given me and to finally give back this image of Che to the people it really belongs to.”

Fitzpatrick said he had been inspired to create the work by the outrage he felt at Guevara’s execution.