by Jess Howard
Artistic appropriation is in no way a new phenomenon. Painters and sculptors have been reproducing their own versions of classic art works for centuries. Picasso for instance, took his own stance in the 1950’s when he appropriated Eugene Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers, by painting the women from behind. And Andy Warhol famously lost a lawsuit in the 1960’s over the design of his Flowers piece. But how does the art world address this kind of appropriation when an image has been sourced directly?
Last month Richard Prince, no stranger to appropriation, caused controversy with his New Portraits exhibition, by displaying a series of images in the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles that he had directly taken off of Instagram. There was no editing, no unique angle, and no form of reproduction. He simply blew the images up, added one last comment, and hung them in gallery. They then proceeded to sell out at the Frieze Art Fair, with the pieces reaching over £56,000 each. This brings into question the idea of possession and identity, both on the internet and within artistic expression. If you place images on a public forum, do they automatically become public property?