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40 years of licensing art

An old red notebook
DACS' first licensing logbook from 1984

Amberley Jamieson, in DACS' Licensing Team, takes us through our licensing history and its importance for artists’ practices.

Since our first licence for the Sunday Times in 1984, we’ve been helping brands bring their projects to life with images of modern and contemporary art, while making sure artists’ rights are always protected.

Copyright licensing is the process of getting permission to use someone's creative work, like a painting, photograph or graphic design. It ensures that the rights of the artists, creatives and beneficiaries are protected and respected, while allowing others to use their work in a legal and authorised manner.

Licensing was why DACS was set up: in 1984, DACS was established as a collecting society, to manage licensing for artists, when no one else did. Since then, we have worked with stakeholders from different industries, from publishing and fashion, to set design, music, film and banking, offering creative ways to showcase visual artists’ work, and providing expertise and advice to ensure we represent each artist and estate fairly.

We have been connecting artists, creators and beneficiaries with the people who want to use their work for over 40 years. Many of our current collaborators, such as the BBC, Phaidon, Thames & Hudson, the Whitechapel Gallery, the Barbican, Penguin, the Southbank Centre and many more have been with us since the beginning. Over the years we have arranged more than 60,000 licences for DACS members in over 70 countries.

Here are some of our licensing highlights from the past four decades:

Herbert Bayer - Virgin Records

The Chemical Brothers album cover 'We Are The Night' showing two hands, each holding an eye, in front of a blue background above some icy mountains
We Are the Night by The Chemical Brothers, featuring Herbert Bayer © DACS 2024

The cover of We Are the Night by The Chemical Brothers is an homage to the Austrian artist and designer, Herbert Bayer. In addition to painting, sculpture, decoration of houses and their facades, Bayer used photo collage, to illustrate his dreams. His work Things to Come, with two hands looking at us almost indifferently, became the canvas for the studio album of the band.

Peggy Angus - Blithfield

A rustic chair covered with a cushion with green shapes, next to three pillows on the floor with the same cover shapes in varying colours
Peggy Angus collection image courtesy of Blithfield. © Estate of Peggy Angus. All Rights Reserved, DACS

For almost 20 years, we have worked with Blithfield to licence work by Peggy Angus for their collection of wallpapers and cushion covers. The collection draws inspiration from Angus’s handblocked designs faithfully reproduced in a range of colours.

Julian Opie - Royal Mail

A blue stamp of a diver in white
Julian Opie, Olympic aquatic print and stamp edition, Royal Mail, 2012 © Julian Opie, courtesy Lisson Gallery 2024

As part of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, DACS worked with Royal Mail to license Julian Opie’s Diver (2011) for a series of stamps to celebrate the London games.

Francis Bacon - Robocop

Actor Michael Keaton sitting behind a desk, in front of a wall featuring three artworks by Francis Bacon
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2024

DACS worked with the production designer Martin Whist to licence Francis Bacon’s work for the reboot of RoboCop in 2014. Bacon’s artistic style, known for its distorted and emotionally charged imagery, was used as the “underlying visual metaphor of the film”.

Bacon’s ‘Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus’, 1981 can be seen here in front of the film’s main antagonist, Raymond Sellars, played by Michael Keaton.

Louise Bourgeois – Simone Rocha

A vitrine of a clothes store where we can see a number on mannequins in pink dresses
© The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2024

Highlighting the symbiotic relationship between art and fashion, we worked with designer Simone Rocha to enable the use of works by Louise Bourgeois in her 2018 Christmas window displays. A long-time fan of Bourgeois, Rocha’s collection (pictured) was set against a backdrop of wall hangings and gift boxes adorned by the French-American artist’s work.

Larry Achiampong and Yinka Shonibare - Snapchat

A snapchat screenshot of two paintings in front of the National Gallery in London, of a statue in Trafalgar square and in front of Nelson's column at Trafalgar square.
© Larry Achiampong. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage. Courtesy of the Artist and Copperfield, London 2024 © Yinka Shonibare CBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2024

In 2021, DACS worked with the Black Cultural Archives to licence the work of Larry Achiampong and Yinka Shonibare, for an immersive augmented reality experience created in partnership with Snap.

In an example of Snap’s large scale ‘Local Lens’ technology, the whole of Trafalgar Square became an immersive history lesson - telling the stories of Black British History that live behind the more famous monuments of the iconic London location.

Frank Bowling - CIRCA Art

The billboard in Piccadilly Circus, London, showing an abstract artwork in orange hues, overlaid with the text 'The moment I arrived in London, I knew I was home
Frank Bowling at Piccadilly Circus, Courtesy of CIRCA Art, photograph by Rosie Feather © Frank Bowling. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage

DACS worked closely with The Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Arts (CIRCA), on the creation of the first digital artwork by Sir Frank Bowling.

At 8:23pm BST every evening between 4 May – 30 June 2023, Bowling’s work, titled Arrival, flashed across the city’s iconic Piccadilly Lights, which usually feature advertisements or brand logos.

The work which celebrates the 70-year anniversary of Frank Bowling’s arrival in London from Guyana in May 1953, coincided with the 75th anniversary of Windrush.

As DACS turns 40, our Chief Executive, Christian Zimmermann looks back at the past four decades.