Award-Winning Director’s Production Company Apologizes to Artist Referenced in ‘The Square’

The production company cofounded by director Ruben Östlund and producer Erik Hemmendorff has issued an apology to Argentinian artist Lola Arias over the use of her name in Östlund’s 2017 film The Square.

“We understand that the use of Lola Arias’ name, which was not discussed as clearly as it should have been, created a misunderstanding connecting her work as an artist to the artwork The Square (Rutan) shown in the film,” the company Plattform Produktion said in a statement.

“After meeting the artist in Berlin and discussing the misperception caused, we would like to emphasize that The Square (Rutan) is an artwork originally created by Ruben Östlund and Kalle Boman for the city of Värnamo, Sweden in 2015. All reference to the artist Lola Arias as the creator of the artwork is fictional,” it continued. “We would like to offer an apology to Lola Arias for the way her name was used in the fiction film The Square.”

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The Square is about an art museum curator experiencing a PR crisis while staging a new art exhibition centered on an eponymous work of art. The Square (Rutan), an illuminated white square on the floor of a large cobblestone courtyard, is intended to be “a sanctuary of trust and caring” where “we all share equal rights and obligations.”

The comedy was the winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or in 2017 and was nominated in the Best Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards in 2018. Östlund recently directed Triangle of Sadness, which also won the Palme d’Or and was nominated for Academy Awards.

While the Berlin-based Arias auditioned for the movie and spoke to Östlund for several hours during a recorded Skype call, the scene was not included in the final version that was shown at Cannes.

However, the art piece The Square is repeatedly credited to Arias throughout Östlund’s film, including during a reception scene, in the movie’s trailer, and in the credits.

As a result, Arias accused Östlund of using her name without consent and crediting an artwork to her that was not hers, resulting in confusion among curators, festival directors, and other artists. Her name was also cited in reviews and articles about the film, with some writers even assuming Arias was a fictitious person.

Arias also filed a lawsuit in Berlin against Plattform Produktion in 2018, arguing the film violated her personal rights. Her lawyer, Jakob Braeur, told a Swedish news station that the main goal of the lawsuit was to prohibit the production company from continuing to show the film with the references to Arias as the author of the central artwork, including via screenings in movie theaters, DVDs, and online platforms like iTunes.

Deadline, which first reported the news of the apology from Plattform Produktion, also said a copy of the film downloaded on Monday still contained referenced to Arias. The production company told Deadline it would not be commenting further on this issue.

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