Wednesday 17th June 2015Artist Spotlight: Richard Prince
Richard Prince has been in the news a lot recently after something of an extended absence, and with good reason. As we discussed in a recent post, Prince's latest exhibit consisted of photographs taken directly from other people's Instagram account, enlarging the photos, printing them and then putting them up for sale for a rumoured $90,000 apiece. Naturally, the photographers whose images he used were less than impressed, and at least one has begun to explore the possibility of some kind of formal legal action. Prince is no stranger to this kind of appropriation, and in fact has decades of this kind of practice under his belt - as well as a few legal challenges.
Prince's career began in the mid-1970s, with an appropriation of a photograph used in a Marlboro cigarette billboard advertisement. Somewhat surprisingly, this photo recently sold at a Christie's auction for over $1 million USD, making it the first "rephotograph", as they are apparently known, to earn the honour. The addition of fame and wealth brings a curious question about ethics into his work, especially when "his" works command such incredible prices, of which the original creators never see a dime, naturally. It's one thing for a starving artist to challenge conceptions of ownership, but somehow seems to be an entirely different matter when the artist in question happens to be worth millions of dollars.
Speaking on the subject of found photography, Prince said, "Oceans without surfers, cowboys without Marlboros…Even though I’m aware of the classicism of the images. I seem to go after images that I don’t quite believe. And, I try to re-present them even more unbelievably." As artistic statements go, it's perhaps not the most elegant, especially when viewed in the context of his Instagram exhibition, which is entitled New Portraits, all of which have sold.
Regardless of how you feel about Prince or his work, one of the most interesting things to happen from his work is the feedback loop he created by (possibly without awareness) took the images of other professional artists and models. The easiest way for them to fight back against this appropriation of their work is to turn the tables and reappropriate their own images of his images, although they seem to be lacking in the financial success area at the moment. Many legal challenges have been fought against Prince, but so far, he has somehow managed to win every single one. We'll keep a close eye on this ridiculous circus, and let you know how it develops!
Posted on June 17th 2015 on 07:57pm
Friday 05th June 2015Derivative or Theft?
The art world can be a tricky place to navigate sometimes, especially in the digital era. Thanks to landmark copyright cases about song rights and the legality of remixes, the nature of the legality of other forms of derivative artwork is often called into question - sometimes more legitimately than others. You may have heard the name Richard Prince in the news lately, or perhaps much longer ago. He's made a name for himself by appropriating the artwork of others and reselling it as his own, with the legal-grey-area claim that he has modified it and it's a derivative work of art. He's recently struck again, but this latest bout of appropriation is taking place in the age of the social media outcry, and things may not go as smoothly for Prince as they have in the past.
His original claim to… ahem… fame, if it can so be called, is from the 1980s when he took photographs of Marlboro cigarette ads and sold the photos. His works raise serious questions about copyright law and copyright infringement, but in a previous lawsuit where he was sued by photographer Patrick Cariou, he was initially ruled against - but appealed, and won the suit.
His latest exhibit, if it can really so be called, entitled "New Portraits", is actually a series of photographs taken from various Instagram feeds, enlarged, and resold. The entirety of the modification he made to the image was enlargement. This makes it easy to understand why one of the women in his photos is extremely angry about the situation, and wants a cut of the sale price of her photo - which sold for a whopping $90,000 USD at the Freize Art Fair. All but one of the photos Prince appropriated were sold, and Anna Collins wants some answers.
Speaking to the Toronto Star in an email, she said, “Appropriation without consent is not at all OK. For an upper-class white man who felt entitled enough to take younger girls’ photos and sell them for a ridiculous amount of money, (it) strips us from the sense of security we have in the identity that we put out there.”
Hopefully, as public awareness of Prince's quote-unquote artwork grows, he will be forced to come to terms with the work of the photographers he resold. Imagine how the music industry would react if people took legally purchased songs, increased the volume slightly, and resold them as their own work? The outcry would be immediate and those responsible would be so inundated with lawsuits they'd never see the light of day again.
Posted on June 05th 2015 on 07:41pm