Painter and photographer Richard Prince is known (and notorious) for appropriating images from celebrities or even fellow photographers, tweaking the photos ever so slightly, and then slapping a knee-buckling price tag on it.
A few people have fought back in court, namely photographer Patrick Cariou, who sued Prince back in 2008 for exhibiting images from his book Yes Rasta. However, seeking legal justice among the blurry lines of copyright can be a lengthy and sometimes uneventful process: Prince was ordered to destroy the images he ripped from Cariou, but Prince later won an appeal that ruled there hadn’t been any copyright infringement. What’s tricky with Prince and copyright infringement is the fact that he doesn’t just copy and paste an image–he modifies it in very minute ways which, legally, makes them his own.
With that as background, Selena Mooney (aka Missy Suicide) of alternative pin-up model collective SuicideGirls has just delivered a brilliant response to Prince’s latest exhibition of emulation: severe price undercutting.
Prince unveiled his series of Instagram “paintings” last fall at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City and added a new batch for the Frieze Art Fair there earlier this month. Essentially, Prince takes screenshots of Instagram photos from models and celebrities, inkjet prints them on 67-by-55-inch canvases, adds vague and creeper-esque comments to avoid copyright infringement, then prices them at $90K a pop. Some of the SuicideGirls were among those whose images were used without permission. But instead of suing, Missy Suicide is selling the same images Prince sold for $90K for $90 with the proceeds going to Electronic Frontier Foundation.
My first thought was, I don’t know anyone who can spend $90,000 on anything other than a house. Maybe I know a few people who can spend it on a car. As to the copyright issue? If I had a nickel for every time someone used our images without our permission in a commercial endeavor, I’d be able to spend $90,000 on art . . . Do we have Mr. Prince’s permission to sell these prints? We have the same permission from him that he had from us. 😉 I’m just bummed that his art is out of reach for people like me, and the people portrayed in the art he is selling.
Well played, Ms. Suicide.
And Prince’s reaction to all this? Judging by his Twitter, he seems mostly bemused. Oh, and he thinks Missy Suicide is “smart” for doing what she’s doing.
You can buy the SuicideGirls’ prints here.