When the second sentence in your Wiki bio is, “Prince began stealing photographs in 1975,” you are probably not the most respected person in your field. But something tells me that Richard Prince, with his fat bank account padded from stealing other people’s work, doesn’t care what his reputation is. Prince is famous for his”art,” which is taking someone’s photograph, making a few changes and calling it his own. This concept, also called, “re-photographing,” has made Prince a fortune.
One of his photographs, Untitled (Cowboy), appropriated from an ad for cigarettes was auctioned for more than a million dollars in 2005. Now Richard Prince is at it again, in an exhibition which featured 38 portraits appropriated from his Instagram feed. Called “New Portraits,” exhibited earlier this month at the Frieze Art Gallery. Late last year, the images were exhibited in the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan. In each Instagram image (none of which are his own), Prince adds his own cryptic comment at the end (his contribution to art, I suppose), then enlarges it and sells the extra large screenshots for up to $100,000. All without the permission of the photographers.
This image, taken by DoeDeere, was sold for $90,000.
It looks like DoeDeere, according to her comment above will not be pursuing any type of recourse toward Prince for appropriating her selfie, and she may not even have a case if she did. Because of the minor changes – by adding his comments at the end of each image – this could fall under ‘fair use.’
Unsurprisingly, Prince has been sued for copyright infringement before. In the case against Prince, a U.S. District Judge found Prince guilty of copyright infringement, but the ruling was later overturned for some of the photographs that Prince appropriated, while a handful was sent to lower courts for review. The case finally settled last year.
What do you think? Is Richard Prince brilliant for his “art” or just a thief who found his way around the fair use laws? How would you feel if it was YOUR Instagram image that he sold for $100k? Comment below.