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Current Events

Richard Prince Could Be (Stealing) And Selling Your Instagram Photo For $100k

By Hanssie on May 23rd 2015

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.

Screencap from Youtube

Screencap from YouTube

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.

[Via PetaPixel]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Daniel Thullen

    Blood sucking leech!

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  2. Colin Woods

    In my view he is no better than the burglars who broke into my parents’ house and appropriated all their treasures. With no real artistic talent of his own, he has to steal others’ work. But when people are prepared to pay big prices for his name, why would he stop.

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  3. Jesper Ek

    Who would be stupid enough to buy..

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  4. Robin Lendrum

    Which is one of the reasons that I will not use instagram.

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  5. Reggie Mitchell

    It seems like Mr. Prince has found a way to exploit the system. He may be financially successful at doing wha he does but no respect is due here. In spite of how any court rules, he’s disrespecting the photographer and THEIR work adds very little to the art. SHAMEFUL!!

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  6. Carlos Santa

    If i was DoeDeere, I’d copy “his” print, comment below his “F%$k you Richard Prince”, and sell it for $300k

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  7. Michael Velardo

    This guy is a thief, and should not be getting the respect, in the form of loads of cash, for work that is for the most part another person’s art. Fair use appears to have taken a back seat to outright stealing.

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  8. Steven Mole

    This is stealing, simple as that. I’ve heard so many pretentious, obnoxious justifications for how Prince’s “work” is “challenging the boundaries of copyright law” or other such nonsense – total and utter rubbish. He is profiting from someone else’s creative vision and efforts. The sad fact is he could be a talented and respected artist in his own right as he is an excellent painter, however it seems that theft of others’ work pays a lot more. Also, I can’t help but notice his work is sourced almost exclusively from artists who, no disrespect whatsoever, probably don’t have the resources and reputation to pursue him for his misappropriation of their work.

    On the flipside, I bet “doedeere” has acquired a few thousand more followers of late – at least this is a good opportunity for them to promote themselves.

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  9. Dawn Benko

    He’s talentless scum. None of the work is his. His changes don’t change anything. It’s mind boggling that anyone would pay one cent let alone tens of thousands of dollars for stolen images. I really hope he gets his comeuppance.

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  10. Ren Guest

    This is horrific. He’s a thief. It’s an abject misuse of the “fair use” law. Anyone looking at this can see it for what it is, which is thievery.

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  11. Thomas Horton

    What I don’t understand is why would anyone pay mega-bucks for this?

    Do rich people just buy stupid stuff in hopes that one of them will become more valuable?

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  12. seoras logan

    The first few times he appropriated other work and re contextualised it, it was probably really cool but Prince has not moved on, now I think is just a desperate artist devoid of any real talent. Like a parasite in nature.

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  13. norman tesch

    art, no… talented, no…thief is a thief…im kinda skeptical on weather he took them from instagram. they are pretty large and clean for something taken off a phone. my phone bogs down when i try to snap a pic with the camera and text it to someone.

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  14. Michael Shea

    Thief for sure but if this image is a 640×640 instagram how did he blow it up so big without pixelation?

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  15. Robynn Winkelman

    Feels like derivative work to me. Having a hard time thinking about how this could be fair use. If I was the photographer I would be more than a little unhappy.

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  16. Michael LaNasa

    I would be curious to the reaction and outcome if the photographs he was “appropriating” were those of a high-profile or very well known photographer. Same law, same rules right?

    I support artistic freedoms, but this is wrong, period. Lots of negative karma points to boot.

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  17. Paddy McDougall

    Art that makes money nowadays seems to value the concept over the substance and craft. Divided over this as at least someone is making money out of photography, shame it isn’t the original photographer.

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  18. Michael Old

    Having looked up appropriation, I have some mixed feelings about the genre.
    I can see taking something and displaying it as art (repurposing it).
    I can even see someone taking part of someone else’s artwork or perhaps even all and using it as part of your own work.
    This case, in my mind is a pretty big stretch, adding a comment doesn’t make it a new artwork.
    I wouldn’t be happy if it happened to me.

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    • Dustin Baugh

      I’ve seen some appropriated works that were really good. You can definitely say the artist created something new out of an existing piece; adding their own influence to it.

      But adding a nonsense comment below the picture is NOT creating a new piece.

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  19. Nashaine Johnson

    The world and it’s law. Often so vague and ridiculous. I don’t see how that is not other people’s work.
    I mean at least give some royalty to the owner.

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  20. Michael Old

    How can this be “fair use” when he is selling it?
    I cant believe that galleries would host his work knowing his background. I guess they dont care and just want the commission

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    • Mike Frederick

      Yeah I think this is a case of money rules. Might be different if they sold for a few hundred bucks, but these are selling for crazy money which makes for large commission’s.

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  21. Richard Olender

    Thief. Nuff said

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  22. Rob Harris

    This guy is just a thief who has found a way to make money by breaking the rules in a white color manner. I don’t understand how changing the text under a photograph changes the photograph at all and that is what he is taking. I have few other choice words to describe this guy, but mixed company and all…

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    • Ralph Hightower

      I agree. Why don’t we just copy Richard Prince’s work, change the comment, and sell it for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

      What is he going to do? Sue us?

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  23. Richard Hammer

    Is he a brilliant artist? No, not really. Is he a brilliant business man? Yes. Do I support what he does? Nope. Do I support his right to do it? Yeah, I guess I do.

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  24. Jim Johnson

    The question isn’t whether he has a right to use other people’s work in his art— he most certainly does because art can be a comment on what already exists (literally in this case) and the very act of appropriating an image can convey a message— but whether he has a right to sell that art without compensating the person he “appropriated” from.

    The answer is no. It can be art without being a commodity. Once it is a commodity, whether it is art has no bearing on how it should be handled.

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  25. robert s

    cant see the pics you posted.

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