The selfie taken by Richard Prince from Doe Deere's Instagram

Richard Prince – A Slime-ball or Thoughtful Artist?

Richard Prince has made headlines again for his use of other people’s original works in his art.

Richard Prince’s newest gallery involves screenshots he has taken of people’s instagram photos, blown up, apparently with some kind of comment added to them by him.


He apparently has not gotten permission from anybody who’s photos he has used and is selling these printouts of their photos for five and six figure sums.


Above you can see one of the instagram photos Prince has taken for his own art. Doedeere, the instagram user whose art it was originally, commented after finding out he had taken her photo…

Figured I might as well post this since everyone is texting me. Yes, my portrait is currently displayed at the Frieze Gallery in NYC. Yes, it’s just a screenshot (not a painting) of my original post. No, I did not give my permission and yes, the controversial artist Richard Prince put it up anyway. It’s already sold ($90K I’ve been told) during the VIP preview. No, I’m not gonna go after him. And nope, I have no idea who ended up with it! 😳 #lifeisstrange #modernart#wannabuyaninstagrampicture


People are naturally quite confused and upset over his actions. Some of this can be attributed to the extreme misunderstanding we have of how copyright works, and the rest to the feelings of theft and purely commercial motives. People have gone so far as to say Richard Prince’s art, is not in fact art.


Now I believe that people’s reactions, saying that it isn’t art, are misguided and rooted in something different that they haven’t been able to express clearly.


We simply cannot sit around and decided what is and what isn’t art. Not Only is that highly immoral, it’s highly problematic. If the courts or the majority of society got to decide what is and isn’t art, we most likely wouldn’t have any art to speak of.


Leonard Nimoy’s photography would be deemed to not be art because it’s “indecent”. Andy Warhol would’ve never been successful because many people simply did not like his personality (which really did not fit into the time-frame in which he lived) and would have found it very easy to prevent him or limit him through this societal action of deciding what is and isn’t art. Vast genre’s of art would simply be gone. No more adult media, horror movies, violent games… There is no limit to this kind of thinking. Anything you personally dislike can be banned, simply because you dislike it.


I believe people are really feeling that Richard Prince’s art is abusive, not that it is not art.


What you see when you look at Richard Prince’s art is other people’s art. Not purely his work, but other people’s. People who you know have not been compensated for their original creations. You see that his “transformation” of their original art really isn’t much of a transformation. You see him bagging massive amounts of money (reportedly $90,000 just for that portrait). You want to say it isn’t art because it is so difficult to express just how dissatisfied you are with Richard Prince and his works. It is art. It just isn’t very good art and that just pisses you off.


Sean Fader’s art was also appropriated by Richard Prince, and he’s decided that he’d rather not sue. Here’s Sean Fader’s reaction…

“I’m really interested in the idea of re-appropriating my own work and taking the work out of the frame that he’s put it in, re-engineering it to continue the conversation that I was interested in from the beginning, and shifting the work back to that space,” Fader said. “I struggled for a while to decide how I felt about it. When I went and saw it I was fuming. I would be psyched to be appropriated into work that was good. I just think the work is flat. It flattened the work in a way that I was not thrilled about its denial. By not communicating with me, by not talking to me, he denied every level of shared authorship, or engagement, all of those things that were so important to me in the work. That’s what irked me about the whole thing. So Prince made his move, now I’ll make mine.”


Below are some comments reacting to Richard Prince’s gallery of Instagram photos he has screenshotted, which includes doedeere’s selfie.

thehnl Perv move by @Richardprince1234

luv4_japan@goodguyrobot no Richard ass hole prince stole it from her!!

nikki_nicole025 That’s a real shame! 😒😒 By right, you should get some of the profit from your photo… 😔 @doedeere

lynzie.nicole Can’t believe that guy stole so many people’s photos. What a shame.


Here are some very insightful comments from TechDirt readers…

MarcAnthony (profile), May 27th, 2015 @ 11:51am Unfair use of fair use
These works are derivative, rather than transformative, and it’s a slap in the face to legitimate fair uses cases for someone to directly profit from another’s photo without permission. What is fair about this use? Does it inform education? Is it parodic? No. It isn’t. I would not be so care fee, were this done with my own photo. “Appropriation artist” = con artist.
bureau13 (profile), May 27th, 2015 @ 11:17am But are the works really transformative?
Richard Prince is a no-talent hack. I thought so in the previous case, and I think so more now. I see nothing new or original or transformative in what he’s done. It feels more like he’s poking the whole fair use discussion right in the eye. I’m not sure how I feel this should be treated, legally. The real problem, however, is that there are people who will pay for this crap. I guess if he can skirt the boundaries of the law and find people who want to give him large sums of money, more power to him…but I like the idea of the original authors finding a way to beat him at his own game, and I hope they’re successful.



Read More about Richard Prince below…

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