Right now, it seems everyone hates Richard Prince, and – like the cliché – he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
Missy Suicide - real name Selena Mooney – co-founder of Suicide Girls, a website for alternative pinup models and their fans, is also laughing all the way to the bank, albeit with a smaller paycheck.
Prince, known as an appropriation artist, printed essentially large-scale screen shots of various images from Suicide Girls’ Instagram account (along with several other Instagram images) and put them on display at Gagosian Gallery in New York City, selling pieces for up to $90,000.
This is not the first time Prince has been a part of a heated copyright debate. The Supreme Court recently ruled in his favor in another case involving an appropriated image.
“If I italicized ‘Moby-Dick,’ then would it be my book? I don’t know. But I don’t think so,” photographer Jim Krantz – whose photographs of cowboys for Marlboro advertising were the basis of some of Prince’s most famous work – told the New York Times in 2007.
While Krantz, a successful commercial photographer, might not feel a $90,000 sting as much as a Suicide Girl, he is not alone in questioning if Prince should be allowed to rephotograph, reprint and reuse his way to fame and riches.
Since the legal route seems to be dicey, Mooney and others have decided to take advantage of the attention, make a statement and maybe make a few dollars at the same time.
Suicide Girls announced they would sell nearly identical replicas of Prince’s work on their website for $90 each.
“’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,” Mooney said on the announcement.
Though reaction to the move by Mooney and others to re-sell the images themselves, Prince could have recourse to sue the subjects for selling their own images.
Prince has repeatedly been quoted as saying he doesn’t care about copyright, and it seems likely nothing new will come of this case. However, that won’t stop the disdain of the artists from which his works are appropriated and it won't stop the disdain of many others. It is likely to continue until curators and art buyers agree with the public that Prince is more of thief than royal.