December 06, 2007

Con artist

I think all my regular readers know I'm a fan of cultural appropriation in general -- mash-ups, sampling, satires, pastiches, that sort of thing -- but this really does seem like intellectual property theft to me. If there's some recontextualization involved in the artwork, I don't see it. "I, as an artist, viewed this advertisement and decided it had artistic merit, so I photographed it" does not seem like sufficient reason to claim ownership of an image. If he thought the image deserved to be in a museum, then he should have sent the advertisement to a curator. I guarantee you that if you do the equivalent thing with a piece of music -- record it off the radio, then offer it as a download on your blog, claiming that by recording it you have made it your own -- the record company, if they find out, will be cease-and-desisting you so fast your head will spin.

Posted by Francis at 05:48 PM

I think Prince's work makes-- or rather made-- an interesting point about the nature of photography and art. Having made his point, he should then have moved on. The fact that he's still at it, and that people are paying thousands of dollars for "his" work, just underscores the utter asininity of the modern art world.

I'm curious whether anyone has done the obvious and put on an exhibition of photographs of Prince's photographs of other people's photographs. That I'd like to see.

Posted by: Rubrick at December 6, 2007 06:32 PM

Aw, come on - everyone knows that Prince hasn't called himself The Artist for years now.


Posted by: RichM at December 6, 2007 07:13 PM

“I never associated advertisements with having an author.”
What. WHAAAAAT???? This just makes me livid. Do ads grow on trees? How can people possibly think this is fair? Also how on earth does it count as fair use?

Posted by: Emily at December 7, 2007 03:51 AM

That quote from Mr. Prince is appalling-- and makes me feel like there's no contradiction in a fan of other appropriative art finding him distasteful. I'm not sure exactly why, though; maybe it's just "If he's a pigfucker, anybody can reasonably assert that his art is not good!"

Posted by: Aaron at December 7, 2007 11:07 AM

“I never associated advertisements with having an author.”


Posted by: kostia at December 7, 2007 05:08 PM

I think I can see what he's trying to get at by saying, “I never associated advertisements with having an author.” I think it's his way of commenting on the absurdity and soul-stealing nature of corporate copyright. He seems to be trying to reclaim creative art on a personal level from the faceless corporations that actually own the rights to the work, regardless of who participated in its making.

If this is indeed what's he's aiming for, however, he fails miserably by ignoring the talents that went into making it in the first place.

Posted by: znufrii at December 7, 2007 08:06 PM

I can't wait to put out an italicized version of Snakes on a Sudoku. Or maybe even underlined!

Posted by: Tisiwoota at December 8, 2007 05:37 PM

I agree, the recontextualization is not significant enough here to constitute an original piece of art. Or if it is, I don't see it. I'm actually surprised that Prince got away with fair use here - the standard is usually higher. I'm curious to see what would happen if Krantz decided to sue. The article said that Prince has paid one out-of-court settlement already.

Re Rubrick's exhibit: I would also be interested to see an exhibit of the source documents that Prince photographed. Does anyone know if these are included in the Guggenheim exhibit?

Posted by: Deborah at December 9, 2007 07:58 PM

Deborah, an interesting thing about copyright law is that Krantz has no standing to sue for Prince's appropriation of his work. Because his was a work-for-hire the copyright sits with his employer. He has no rights whatsoever, other than the right to be duly indignant as his work being misappropriated for the sake of "art". The concept of "fair use" doesn't even really enter the picture, in my opinion. He's stealing, or reclaiming if you will, art that he sees as "not having an author" by making it his own, and ignoring those whose efforts went into making it in the first place.

Posted by: znufrii at December 9, 2007 09:57 PM

I guess that’s why Krantz said that he doesn’t intend to sue.

The article says that Prince’s work “seems to be protected by fair use exceptions to copyright law.” I’m just curious whether this has ever been tested in court. To me, Prince’s work does not meet the fair use standard.

Somewhat related, a photographer sued Jeff Koons for copyright infringement a few years ago. Koons made a painting which borrowed images from several sources, including a photograph that the photographer shot for Allure magazine. The court sided with Koons in this case, but Koons’ work was not an exact copy of the original. Interesting enough, the painting in question was commissioned by Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R.Guggenheim Foundation.

Posted by: Deborah at December 10, 2007 09:24 AM

Jon Carroll takes on the subject:

Posted by: Lance at December 10, 2007 01:01 PM

The NYTimes added a correction to the original article:

Correction: December 7, 2007
An article in The Arts yesterday about the photographer Jim Krantz and his views on the use of some of his pictures made for Marlboro advertisements by the artist Richard Prince referred incorrectly to the copyrights for his pictures. While the copyrights for his Marlboro photographs are owned by Philip Morris, Mr. Krantz retains the copyrights to most of his work; his clients do not generally own the rights.

Posted by: Jan at December 12, 2007 09:44 AM

As noted above, Prince's fair use defense seems shockingly weak; his real legal sanctuary is that the copyright rests with Philip Morris, and Philip Morris doesn't care / hasn't shown signs of caring.

Arguably Philip Morris *should* care. If I look at it from the corporation's point of view, I'm all in favor of people decorating their walls with photographs of cigarette-smoking cowboys, but I do still want people to know the Marlboro Man is the Marlboro Man, not the Richard Prince Cowboy (Untitled). I think my position would be that any distributed copies of Prince's "work" should say "Marlboro Country" on it somewhere in a suitable font.

Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup cans still said, "Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup" on them.

Posted by: Richard Mason at December 16, 2007 12:23 PM

The obvious on Ebay.

Posted by: Richard Mason at December 16, 2007 12:45 PM

The cowboy photograph that fetched the highest ever auction price of any photograph ever. Check out the audio commentary by a person from Christie's!

Posted by: Richard Mason at December 16, 2007 01:32 PM

The level of self-parody in that audio commentary is dangerously high. Reminds of all the fatuous artspeak I had to wade through when I worked at Artforum for a week. God, I was happy to leave that job.

Posted by: Francis at December 16, 2007 02:15 PM

Playing devil's advocate, isn't the recontextualization just the fact that it's hanging in a museum and not at a bus stop? Like Duchamp's toilet? Also, I can't tell from a small image, but maybe the photo-of-a-photo loses some resolution and adds some graininess. But maybe not enough to matter.

Posted by: Doug Orleans at December 20, 2007 12:24 PM

Hey just a heads up, I wanted to let everyone know that Xio Dibin speaks English. I hope I posted in the right location?

Posted by: Shaun Davis at April 22, 2009 08:46 PM
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