How Stealing Pictures of Other People Becomes Art

If anyone goes after Richard Prince this time, it won’t be his first time in court: Richard Prince is known as a notorious artist. The most famous case which lasted long and brought the victory to Richard Prince over his plaintiff, French photographer Patrick Cariou, became a case study for students: Cariou v. Prince. Prince wan, for his artwork was considered to fall under the fair use doctrine. More likely, it may happen this time with the stolen – sorry – probably fairly used Instagram pictures to produce his own “work of art”.

What happened? Richard Prince is an active Instagram user. He lifted the photos of other users and made them their own artworks by screenshotting and processing them, and even by adding his comments. As a result, we get another artwork, a different photograph, which belongs to Richard Prince. That simple.

Life is not fair. These new artworks sell at the Gagosian showroom for around $90K each (this is Richard Prince, at the end). People who inspired the artist, produced, and posted their original photos, get nothing.

“Richard Prince sucks”, – the Artnet said, and it’s hard not to agree with this. So does the Gagosian venue. But do they really suck in marketing and promotion? Do they really suck in their sales skills?

The scandalous buzz about this show is one of the purposes – the show gets a free promotion supported by thousands, if not millions, of social media users. AND – what is important – it all begins making it Art, fortunately or unfortunately: the unfairness of the situation creates a seed for a discussion, it undeliberately defines a concept for this show, and gives it a discourse which will finally define this whole notorious activity as Art. The whole project, starting with stealing photos, is a performance which will be considered *art* at the end, because the name matters. And this is Richard Prince. This is how the art industry looks like today.

Richard Prince at the Gagosian showroom. Photo courtesy of the Gagosian.

Richard Prince at the Gagosian showroom. Photo courtesy of the Gagosian.

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