Richard Prince Isn’t a Thief — He’s a Genius

richard prince
People have been up in arms about artist Richard Prince screenshotting people’s posts on Instagram and selling them for upwards of $100,000 at Frieze. It sounds like a clear case of copyright infringement, right? Why should this guy be making so much money off of other people’s works? Because he’s a genius.

 

First off, this is Richard Prince’s metier; he’s been appropriating photographs, advertisements and other works since the ‘70s. It’s in a similar vein to Pop Artists purloining mass culture as subjects (Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton) or other “rephotographers” like Barbara Kruger and Thomas Struth. Controversial, of course, but this kind of art has been around for a while. In fact there are whole books and anthologies written about appropriation and mass media from Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction to Whitechapel’s AppropriationLove it or hate it (and plenty of people hated Warhol’s soup cans) lots of scholars and artists find this type of work inspiring and valuable.    
Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup

When Warhol first displayed his paintings of Campbell’s soup cans to the public, people thought it was a joke. Now they’re proudly on display at MoMA. (Photo via paintyourlife.com)

Also, Prince is within his rights to use these images. After a litigious battle between Prince and photographer Patrick Cariou that settled in 2014, the courts ultimately decided that some of Prince’s photographs of Cariou’s work were “transformative” enough to escape copyright laws. Basically, if you change enough of the original work (which, honestly, doesn’t have to be much of it) it’s fair use. Not to mention, we’re all embedding and regramming and sharing like crazy every day.
Regardless, who is he really hurting? Was someone going to sell that photo for $100K and now they can’t? Isn’t it more likely that the press they received from this incident will help them in the long run?
Thomas Struth

Many of Struth’s photographic work like this appropriate art and recontextualize it, especially with institutional critiques. (Photo via dspace.library.uu.nl)

Prince’s “New Portraits” is a brilliant critique of our social media-obsessed culture—it’s a commentary on the cheapening and devaluing of the photographic image in the context of the never ending visual streams (often extremely intimate or sexualized) that make up our daily lives. It’s an heuristic device that illuminates our voyeuristic culture and the question of how much authorship do we really ever have once we hit publish?

 

Good artists copy. Great artists screenshot.
Photo © Richard Prince. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever.

 

What Can You Afford At Frieze Art Fair?

The New York art world exists in little pockets across the city.

There are the galleries in Chelsea, the museums along Fifth Avenue, the studios dotting Bushwick and now, the art fair that ate Randall’s Island.

That’s right, it’s Frieze, the American version of the British art spectacle (born from a magazine of the same name) that has artsy types from curators to performance weirdoes to—the horror!—regular people gearing up to cross the East River and check out what the fair, opening its inaugural U.S. appearance today with 180 exhibitors has to offer.

According to Amanda Sharp, who created the fair with Michael Slotover, it’s going to be as big as possible. Literally.

“We actually can’t build a bigger fair on that site—it’s built to its maximum size from year one,” she told ArtSpace. “It’s quite a shock when you walk out there and realize quite how big it is, but then I feel very comfortable with it because I know that the quality of the galleries is so strong.”

Indeed, galleries from blue-chip galleries like Gagosian and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise will be showing off their wares—and likely attracting some serious collectors. But what’s in it for those of us who aren’t looking to drop a year’s salary on a doodle?

Food. Namely stands from NYC favorites like Roberta’s, The Fat Radish, Frankies Spuntino, The Standard Biergarten and Sant Ambroeus as well as a mess of food trucks. And also culture!

A half-day ticket will run $25, and considering art lovers can take a relatively inexpensive ferry across the river to check out the fair – in a spot most New Yorkers rarely visit, nonetheless – a rare opportunity to see world-class art, travel by boat and eat artisan pizza with some of the city’s wealthiest collectors suddenly seems like a deal.

Frieze Art Fair Draws Crowds, Gwyneth Paltrow

Wielding a brand of hipness all its own, the annual Frieze Art Fair in London resembles the Sundance Film Festival in its ability to attract celebrities and other influential personalities. So even though the economy has everyone purchasing art with more caution than in years past, it hasn’t put a dent in those looking to take advantage of the steadily cooking art market. Some celebrities include Gwyneth Paltrow (perhaps “influential” is a stretch in this case) and perpetual Craigslist champion George Michael. Also seen gallivanting around were art-scene fixtures such as advertising mogul/gallery owner Charles Saatchi and art partronette Daria Zhukova. The Frieze Art Fair ends Sunday.