Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Oh, Richard Prince has a photograph just like that!"

Randy Kennedy in today's New York Times:

"Since the late 1970s, when Richard Prince became known as a pioneer of appropriation art — photographing other photographs, usually from magazine ads, then enlarging and exhibiting them in galleries — the question has always hovered just outside the frames: What do the photographers who took the original pictures think of these pictures of their pictures, apotheosized into art but without their names anywhere in sight?"

To find out, he talks to one of them, "a successful commercial photographer from Chicago named Jim Krantz," whose work Prince used as part of his well-known Marlboro Man series. Krantz says he just wants some credit and has "no intention of seeking money from or suing" Prince, and the story largely skims over the legal issues, saying only that Prince's "borrowings" "seem to be protected by fair use exceptions to copyright law." The situation is actually much more complicated than that. You could organize a whole symposium about the legal issues raised by appropriation art -- in fact, someone has, and I wrote about it here. As I said then:

"a better sense of the bottom line was conveyed by Judge Leval when, after giving some general remarks on copyright and fair use, he asked, 'So what's it all mean for appropriation art,' then paused . . . and kind of threw up his hands and said: 'I don't know.' He went on to say the law in this area is 'astonishingly unpredictable' and that it's 'very hard to know what the law is.' He said 'almost any question' in this area is 'very difficult to answer' and added that he doesn't know of any area of law where there are so many reversals by the appellate courts."

More on today's story from Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento here. Prince's retrospective at the Guggenheim continues through Jan. 9.