Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Richard Prince and Appropriation

Richard Prince, for those of you who don't follow this sort of thing, is an appropriation artist. He takes other people's work, usually photos, makes small modifications, and sells the result as Art.

Most recently he is selling large prints of Instagram screen shots of pretty girls. For $90,000.

This had led to the usual outcry from photographers.

Wow he must be rich! Prince doesn't see the $90,000. Maybe half of it? Dude's probably making a decent living, but he ain't getting rich. If he could sell one a week, sure, but he can't. Being a famous artist means, mostly, increasing the list of people who get paid before you do. He's probably going to gross a couple hundred grand this year, and nothing next year.

Haw haw! Suicide Girls are selling identical prints for $90! What perfect revenge! They're not identical. The point is the appropriation. Without the appropriation it's just a blowup of an Instagram shot. Also, it's not at all clear how this is revenge. Isn't vengeance supposed to damage the target? This is actually the Suicide Girls brand doing a little marketing.

Why do people pay $90,000 for a bad photo? The image quality, it is so bad! Etc. People are not buying a photo, they're buying art. They're buying a piece of the process in this case. They're buying a piece of controversy and legal questions and arguments about Art, Ownership Of. If there's a legal fight, that's good.

I don't understand why he would steal someone else's photos! Because that's his art. Duh.

If Prince appropriated your work, and you wanted to harm him, the most damaging thing you could do would be to promptly issue him a license to use your work. By doing so, you destroy most of the art, and his work becomes just a large print of someone else's photograph.

If you brought legal action against Prince, you'd render his work that much more valuable and interesting.

The in-between business Suicide Girls is up to is simply marketing, hooking in to a current news story to promote their brand's visibility. I didn't even know Prince has appropriated any SG photos until the "ha ha what perfect revenge!" story popped up.

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