How would you feel about a thirsty old man ripping pics from your Instagram account and selling them for $100,000 apiece?
Richard Prince, the American-artist-in-question, has filled the Gagosian Gallery in New York with 38 portraits, 65 by 48 inches each, of persons he found sifting through Instagram. A good majority of the pics in his series, titled “New Portraits,” are of young females in suggestive poses.
Who is This Guy?
Richard Prince has been appropriating art since 1975, which is a fancy way of saying that he’s been taking other artists’ work, throwing a bucket of paint on them and then selling them for large amounts of dough for over 30 years.
How is that not illegal, you ask? Because copyright laws applied in the art world are concerned with one thing only: if the material being sold is a new creation, or if it is simply a copy of somebody else’s work.
While people have objected to his “creations” throughout the years, taking Prince to court has proved unfruitful, as his opponents have had the difficult task of proving that Prince had copied their work, rather than appropriating it. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped people, especially his subjects, from objecting to his controversial methods.
A female subject of one of Prince’s “New Portraits” exhibit who goes by DoeDeere on Instagram spoke out on a recent Instagram post:
How Does He Get Away With It?
The brilliance of Prince lies in his ability to re-purpose the art or images he uses. As for “New Portraits,” Prince transformed the Instagram photos by tweaking the comments below the images before printing them on the giant canvases. For example, under an image of Sky Ferreira riding in a red sportscar that he found and printed from Instagram, Prince wrote: “Enjoyed the ride today. Let’s do it again. Richard.” In the art world, those comments alone may suffice as a new creation, but no one can say for sure until he’s taken to court.
Is It Really Art?
Art critics have responded vehemently to the gallery, some praising Prince for being a “true wizard of his tastes” and others barely able to keep in their displeasure. However, none have summed up the entire fiasco as bluntly as Peter Schjeldahl from The New Yorker:
“Possible cogent responses to the show include naughty delight and sincere abhorrence. My own was something like a wish to be dead.”
Whether your reaction is “naughty delight” or “sincere abhorrence,” you have to admit that Prince’s art does reflect the nature of the internet, where authorship is blurry and information can be exchanged and distorted as casually as it’s posted.
If so, that makes Prince one rich troll.