Richard Prince has again been raiding the Instagram accounts of the largely female rich and famous with a series of “New Portraits,” from celebrities, models, and other individuals of visual note with a current show of works by the artist at one of Gagosian Gallery’s Madison Avenue spaces – and Prince’s presence in the gallery’s booth at Frieze New York – where the works were reportedly selling for up to $100,000 each.
As is always the case with Prince’s particular practice of appropriation, questions of copyright infringement have dominated the dialogue surrounding the works on sites including PetaPixel and Business Insider.
The artist pulls the photographs from the Instagram pages of his subjects, Prince’s digital version of his long-standing invention of ‘Re-photography; directly appropriating the images as his own work and selling them for six figures. But the artist adds his own comments, and takes a screenshot of the photo, and blows it up to fit a large canvas, an act similar to the artist’s re-cropping, generating a ‘new’ work of art. But Prince’s latest act has not gone down well with all of his subjects.
The model and cosmetics entrepreneur Doe Deere wrote on Instagram last week after a portrait of her was presented at Frieze New York. “Yes, my portrait is currently displayed at the Frieze Gallery in NYC, Yes, it’s just a screenshot (not a painting). No, I did not give my permission and yes, the controversial artist Richard Prince put it up anyway. It’s already sold ($90K I’ve been told) during the VIP preview. No, I’m not gonna go after him. And nope, I have no idea who ended up with it!” Deere tagged her post #lifeisstrange #modernart #wannabuyaninstagrampicture.
In 2013, the artist won a lawsuit in the United States Court of Appeals against photographer Patrick Cariou over his “Canal Zone” series, for which Prince modified in various ways several of Cariou’s Panamanian landscape photographs and portraits of Rastafarians. Subsequently it was ruled that all but five of the works altered the original content enough that they were “transformative” and therefore did not constitute infringement.
Business Insider has noted, that unless Prince is taken to court, there is no way of knowing whether or not he is guilty of copyright infringement, despite the fact that the artist has not received permission to use most of the photographs. But the simple fact that he’s altered the images might help the work meet the requirements of fair use, a defence against the charge of copyright infringement.
Unless action is taken by any of his subjects, to prove or disprove copyright infringement, it would seem that the artist’s long-standing practice of appropriation seems set to continue.