Cranky Media Guy
sent me an interesting link to an article
published last December in the New York Times about the artist Richard Prince
. He's described as a pioneer of "appropriation art."
What this means is that Prince takes photographs of other photographer's photographs, and then displays them as his own. For instance, he had an exhibit at the Guggenheim about cowboys, which basically consisted of photographs of Marlboro ads. The guy who actually took the images for the Marlboro ads, the photographer Jim Krantz, visited the exhibit and was like, "Hang on, those are my photographs!"
In the thumbnail, you can see Krantz's original photograph on top, and Prince's rephotograph of it on the bottom.
Prince doesn't try to hide what he does. And art critics love his work. According to the NY Times: "one of the Marlboro pictures set an auction record for a photograph in 2005, selling for $1.2 million." That's good money for a photograph of someone else's photograph.
It raises the question, is this really art, or is it just mindless copying? To which the answer, as always, is that art is whatever art critics say is art (and whatever the courts allow artists to get away with).
Generally I take a very liberal attitude about copyright. I think it's necessary that people are allowed to copy works of art in order to be able to comment upon them, criticize them, or develop them into something new and different. But what Prince is doing looks more to me like glorified scrapbooking than creating original art.
It also reminds me of the scam that art museums try to use to establish perpetual copyright to the works in their collection. They take photographs of all the paintings they own that have passed into public domain. Then they claim that, while the original might be in the public domain, their picture of it is copyrighted -- and then they demand exorbitant fees from anyone who wants to reproduce it.