Belgian Magazine 'Hart' is Taking Legal Action Against Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam

Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Belgian Magazine 'Hart' is Taking Legal Action Against Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam

At the end of June, the Hermitage Amsterdam announced that it would change its name to H'ART Museum, effective 1 September. The rebranding of the Hermitage Amsterdam comes in the wake of the museum’s decision to cut all ties with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Hermitage Amsterdam's new choice of name is baffling, given that the Belgian contemporary art magazine HART is well known in the Netherlands, being sold there in bookshops and museums (in addition to having a loyal subscriber an advertiser base). What’s more, both names – H’ART and HART – sound identical when pronounced.

HART Magazine has had a Benelux trademark registration since 2006 and has been using the current logo since 2019. In response to objections by the magazine, Hermitage Amsterdam filed an emergency application for the trademark H’ART. It is not unimaginable that a cultural institution such as the Hermitage Amsterdam would go public with its own magazine, which could again lead to... confusion.

HART, one of the leading art magazines in the Benelux, is planning to launch an internationally oriented English edition on 7 September. Founded in 2006, HART writes with insight and inspiration about artists and their work, about exhibitions, institutions, collectors and collections, and art-world politics. Thanks to considerable effort, the magazine has become an established platform for reflection and debate on the art world in the Benelux and beyond.

Moreover, HART's activities go beyond publishing a magazine: HART organises talks and readings, creates podcasts, artist’s editions, and guides, and sometimes organises small-scale exhibitions. If the Hermitage Amsterdam, renamed H’ART Museum, were to organise similar activities – as many major cultural institutions do – the risk of confusion would be almost certain. The Hermitage Amsterdam has also announced a partnership with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, an institution which HART regularly reports on. Any unwanted associations due to similarity of branding could threaten the magazine's editorial independence.

All this on the eve of HART’s most ambitious project to date, namely the launch of an internationally oriented, English-language quarterly. Having recently moved its offices to Brussels to strengthen its connections to the international institutions, art centres and galleries based in the city, the magazine must now defend its name and logo and the carefully built reputation associated with them.

Consultations on 4, 6 and 12 July failed to bring both parties closer together. There has been speculation in the media about the likely outcome of the legal proceedings. "Our legal experts agree that any litigation can be faced with confidence.” We have given the Hermitage Amsterdam ample opportunity to present an adequate response, but it has failed to do so.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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