Why Is Kim Kardashian Being Sued By The Donald Judd Foundation?

  • 8 Apr '24
  • 6:05 pm by Manisha AR

While imitation is often considered the highest form of flattery, it is also the bedrock of how trends are born. Interior design is not new to trends and often relies on the use of references when developing projects. Where does one draw the line between illegal reproduction and adapting a design out of admiration? 

Last month, the Judd Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in New York City and Marfa, Texas filed a lawsuit against television personality Kim Kardashian for using inauthentic furniture in the office for SKNN BY KIM. In a video tour, that has since been taken down, the Kardashian was seen telling her viewers about the ‘Donald Judd tables’ in her ‘kitchen area.’ She then proceeds to talk about how the chairs are cleverly concealed once pushed under the table. These tables and chairs that evoke the La Masana Table 22 and Chair 84 by Donald Judd, were designed by a Los Angeles-based design firm Clements Design. In 2022, when the office got a lot of publicity, the foundation reached out to both Kardashian and the Design team to take the video down and destroy/recycle the furniture. 

Clements Design is run by Kathleen and Tommy Clements, a mother-and-son duo, based in West Hollywood. They have worked on multiple projects for celebrities including Jessica Alba, Kendall Jenner, Jennifer Aniston and Ellen DeGeneres to name a few. Each home they have designed exemplifies quiet luxury and meets chic glamour. When they first received a notification from the Judd Foundation, they offered to correct the video but the Judd Foundation didn’t accept this offer. This year after the foundation filed the lawsuit, Clements Design went on to release a statement claiming there were “obvious key differences” between the two pieces of furniture. 

An American artist, Donald Clarence Judd has been associated with minimalism before it became a trend in interior spaces. Known predominantly for his sculptures, he went on to work in design, furniture and architecture. One of the most significant texts he wrote on ‘Minimalism’ as a movement in art called ‘Specific Objects,’ in 1965 made him a key figure and spokesman on the intricacies. His article emphasised the physical and phenomenological experience of the objects rather than the symbolic meaning behind placing objects in a certain way. 


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Screenshot from a YouTube video of Kim Kardashian’s Office Tour in 2022.

Many of us today, loosely translate the term minimalism to mean “less is more” in design. However, there was more to it for Judd because he was concerned about the use of industrial materials, the ways objects are placed and their arrangements at the site. In fact, according to MoMa’s description of him, “Throughout his life, Judd continued to publish articles advocating the value of critical thought and the importance of artists to society.” As a result of this, at the core of Judd’s designs are his specifications regarding dimensions, material type, finish, and construction among other things. An authentic piece of Judd furniture is required to meet all of these specifications established by the artist himself during his lifetime. It’s also why authentic Judd furniture can be purchased only from the Judd Foundation. 

While it is not uncommon for designers to copy and designs to be copied, it is rare when this is addressed or amicably resolved between artists. The Messe Frankfurt Fair this year for instance introduced an anti-prize for a brand/company that was selling knockoffs or objects that infringed copyright policies. This anti-award is an attempt to raise awareness and make designers and brands feel protected about their work. The kicker is that this award is based on concerns raised by their current vendor list. There are many similar initiatives, but the basic idea is that the world of art and design currently runs on an honour system or self-policing when it comes to copying, replicating, or straight-up plagiarising. 

“In blatant disregard of Judd Foundation’s trademark and copyright rights, Clements Design manufactured and sold knockoff versions of the Donald Judd La Mansana Table and the Donald Judd Chair 84 to Ms. Kardashian,” reads the lawsuit filed by the foundation. It’s an obvious extension of Judd’s philosophy on the role of art in today’s rapidly connected and easily influenced world. 


Last year, it was reported that Kim Kardashian spent $100 million on a new Malibu property, despite winning the multi-million mansion she owned with Kanye in their divorce. So we know it isn’t about being able to afford work by the original artist himself. It might even seem like a miscommunication or misunderstanding between the design team and Clements but for the foundation, it’s bigger than that. They go on to say in their lawsuit, “Clements Design’s and Ms Kardashian’s actions harm Judd Foundation’s reputation by undermining its ability to control the quality of pieces sold under its trademarks, as well as its ability to control Mr Judd’s name and identity,” said the lawsuit. 

We don’t know if the lawsuit speaks for all designers when they take such a bold stance against imitation and redistribution but we do know the repercussions of getting caught showing off dupes in your brand-new luxurious 40,000 sq ft office.