Richard Prince is an "artist" who is best known for "re-photographing" art. In other words, Prince has made a name for himself by taking other people's art or photos, making slight changes to them and re-selling them as his own unique creations. The controversial painter and photographer recently took screenshots of other people's Instagram photos, blew them up, and printed them on canvas as part of an art show in New York City he called "New Portraits." The artist was able to fetch $90,000 a piece for the canvas photos despite never seeking permission from the Instagram users in question. Prince defends the project, noting that he did make some "transformative" changes to the photos including removing captions and adding his own odd comments to the bottom of each photo. These slight changes, according to Prince and apparently the court of law, mean that the art is unique and that it can be sold to the public for whatever outrageous price tag someone is willing to pay.
The Washington Post reports that Richard Prince has been "re-photographing" other's art since the 1970s. He is known for taking "pictures of photos in magazines, advertisements, books or actors' headshots, then alters them to varying degrees. Often, they look nearly identical to the originals." Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in some legal trouble for the artist. For example, in 2008 a French photographer, Patrick Cariou, sued Prince after he re-photographed Cariou's images of Jamaica's Rastafarian community. Initially the court sided with Cariou, but the case was overturned during an appeal after the judge said that no copyright infringement had occurred since Prince's works were "transformative."
So, how much needs to be done to another's piece of art or photograph for the new image to be considered "transformative?" If Richard Prince's new series is any indicator, not much. In his photo series "New Portraits," Prince simply took screenshots of images that people posted publicly to Instagram. He then blew the images up to 67x55 and printed them on canvas. The transformation of the photo included their exceptionally large size, removal of captions and inclusion of strange comments from Richard's personal Instagram account on each image.
One of the Instagram accounts that was used heavily in Richard Prince's art show was that of the Suicide Girls. Instead of pursuing legal action against Richard for using their pieces without consent, the group decided to "transform" Richard Prince's pieces and sell them for a fraction of the cost. Instead of a $90,000 price tag, the Suicide Girls photos are selling for $90 a piece with all profits going to Electrical Frontier Foundation, which focuses on defending individual rights in the digital world.
What do you think about Richard Prince's artwork? Is the "New Portraits" series real art or "lazy art" as some have called it? Can you believe anyone would pay $90,000 for a canvas of an Instagram screenshot?
[Image Credit: Facebook]