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A lot of weird stuff happens in the name of art, but conceptual artist Richard Prince might have just taken it to a whole new level.
Prince, who has been making art out of other people’s photographs since 1975, recently began printing other people’s Instagram photos and claiming the prints as his own artwork. Many of the photos are self portraits of young women, and Prince included his actual Instagram comments (some of them pretty creepy) in his screenshots. Now, he’s selling the prints, some of which are going for up to $100,000.
In the 1970s, appropriation art became a trend when several contemporary artists started re-photographing other people’s photos and presenting them as their own. Prince in particular became known for his cowboy series, in which he’d take photos of the cowboys in Marlboro cigarette ads and recontextualize them in a fine arts setting.
Prince has been sued for using other people’s photos in the past. In 2013, a judge ruled that the image appropriation constituted fair use after French photographer Patrick Cariou sued over use of his work in Prince’s paintings.
So far, he’s faced no legal resistance for this new Instagram series, which he’s called “New Portraits.” He has, however, received some scathing criticism from art writers, and some of the women whose images he’s “borrowed” have confirmed that he never asked permission to use their pictures.
Is this new series conceptual art or just plain stealing? The price tag on these prints suggests the former, but we’ll have to see if any of the original photographers here decide to pursue legal action against Prince. After all, none of them will see any of that money.