Monday, March 28, 2011

Modern Maturity: The Case Against Richard Prince’s Appropriations

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different,” wrote T.S. Eliot in a 1920 essay titled "Philip Massinger." I’m not sure where artist Richard Prince would fall on the Eliot scale, but according to Manhattan federal court judge Deborah Batts, he’s legally a thief. Judge Batts ordered Prince and the Gagosian Gallery to destroy millions of dollars of artwork as part of the judgment in favor of photographer Patrick Cariou, who claimed that Prince’s appropriation of his photography crossed the line of fair use into the dark underworld of intellectual theft. Appropriation in art has been all the rage in modern art for decades, and not just by Prince, but this decision calls into question the legality (and thus the practicality) of appropriating the art of others into your own. Is Eliot still right to say that stealing is a sign of “maturity”? Or is this “modern maturity” a crime gone unpunished, until now? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Modern Maturity."

[Many thanks to Hugh for drawing this story to my attention.]

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