Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Andy Warhol’s body of work comes to mind with this, drawing inspiration from still life and icons alike and boldly transforming it into something completely fresh. His iconic pop art defined a generation. But what happens when that imitation results in a blatant carbon copy of another artist’s original work with added fringe? Is it even art?
That is the current debate of Richard Prince, whose photographic career has been based largely upon plagiarizing the original works of others, such as famous Marlboro ads, and installing them as his own. When called into question, he maintained that he was attempting to communicate something that he couldn’t convey by creating his own images alone. And then he takes it one step farther.
“Phony fraud photographers keep mooching me. Why? I changed the game.”
It takes a lot of gumption to call out someone else as a fraud given the vast body of his work is merely enlargements of original art pieces. When his ethics have been called into question throughout the various lawsuits, Prince’s stance has been and remains to be with his feet anchored in the sand and his middle finger erected.
The most recent controversy surrounding Prince is the installation of his 2014 “New Faces” gallery in New York. The entire gallery was an exploit of the shared usage rights on social media. He took the original artist’s works, added his own Instagram styled comment, enlarged them for installation at the Gagosian Gallery and profited handsomely. One piece sold for $90,000, nearly double the average Brooklyn household income.
Everyone has been asking me what I thought about famous controversial artist Richard Prince taking a series of SuicideGirls Instagram posts and printing them out and selling them at a recent gallery show at the Gagosian Gallery of Beverly Hills for $90,000 a piece. My first thought was I don’t know anyone who can spend $90,000 on anything other than a house. Maybe I know a few people who can spend it on a car. As to the copyright issue? If I had a nickel for every time someone used our images without our permission in a commercial endeavor I’d be able to spend $90,000 on art. I was once really annoyed by Forever 21 selling shirts with our slightly altered images on them, but an Artist? Richard Prince is an artist and he found the images our girls and we publish on Instagram as representative of something worth commenting on, part of the zeitgeist, I guess? Thanks Richard! Do we have Mr. Prince’s permission to sell these prints? We have the same permission from him that he had from us. ;) I’m just bummed that his art is out of reach for people like me and the people portrayed in the art he is selling. So we at SuicideGirls are going to sell the exact same prints people payed $90,000 for $90 each. I hope you love them. Beautiful Art, 99.9% off the original price. ;) https://suicidegirls.com/shop/instagram-art-1/ https://suicidegirls.com/shop/instagram-art-2/ https://suicidegirls.com/shop/instagram-art-3/ https://suicidegirls.com/shop/instagram-art-4/ https://suicidegirls.com/shop/instagram-art-5/ Urban art publisher Eyes On Walls (EyesOnWalls.com) is supporting the project by fulfilling the large canvas reproductions at cost. We will be donating the profits from sales to EFF.org. xoxo Missy Check out Missy's AMA happening right now! http://redd.it/37hzrn
The exhibition resulted in a lawsuit filed by photographer Donald Graham and this time it is not being dismissed by a New York Federal judge.
“The primary image in both works is the photograph itself. Prince has not materially altered the composition, presentation, scale, color palette and media originally used by Graham.”
Instead, it will serve as a follow-up to another lawsuit that was filed by Patrick Cariou. The verdict could potentially alter the fair-usage agreement of photographs on Instagram as we know it. It could also set a precedent for the future of online copyright agreement.
This would be a huge win for photographer and artists alike. Social Media is the modern day word of mouth. We take a huge risk every time we click the Terms of Service Agreement.
The story of Prince should also serve as a cautionary tale. If someone else’s voice needs to be borrowed to tell your story and it can’t be spun into something new, perhaps it wasn’t your story to tell.
Art is a point of view, an interpretation of the inspiration of an artist’s surroundings and innermost thoughts. There is a mindset that everything in the creative process has already been done, and it is hard pressed to not be inspired by the work of the previous Greats that have come before us. As artists, we have a moral responsibility to take aspects of that inspiration and make it into something all our own. From our perspectives.
Source: The New York Times