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Less Than $90,000

August 7, 2015- September 23, 2015

Richard Prince has a history of appropriating other people’s work, changing it, and selling it for very high prices.  In fact, his photograph of a Marlboro Man commercial off of a television was the first photograph to sell at auction for over $1,000,000.  But his latest escapade in appropriation has produced an interesting twist.

Richard Prince “appropriated” the Instagram photos of several people, and put his own tag line at the bottom, had them blown up to 67” x 55” and reprinted on canvas.  That is unremarkable.  That some of these pieces actually sold for $90,000 at Frieze New York and Gagosian Gallery is hard to fathom.

Some of the Instagram photos he “appropriated” were made by the Suicide Girls, an international collective of women dedicated to celebrating an alternative vision of beauty through burlesque and film performances, and producing photography books.  Their response to Prince’s appropriation of their work was genius.  The Suicide Girls used their original work, with Prince’s added tag line, then added another tag line of their own to “re-appropriate” the work.  They blew the photos up to 67” x 55”, had them printed on canvas, like Prince, and sold them from the Suicide Girls website for $90.00 each, donating the proceeds to a charity. They sold their creations for 1/1000 of the price of Prince’s work.  I wonder how the people who paid $90,000 for the Prince pieces feel about this.

The Suicide Girls’ Instagrams are on display at the Paul Paletti Gallery from August 7 through September 23, 2015, along with other recent acquisitions of photographs by Brett Weston, Paul Caponigro, Aaron Siskind, John Sexton, Steve Sherman, Lois Connor, Russel Monk, and Ken Hanson.  And everything in the exhibit is considerably less than $90,000.

Richard Prince / Suicide Girls Instagrams

With regard to the Richard Prince / Suicide Girls Instagrams, someone need to speak up and point out that the emperor has no clothes.

I have never met Richard Prince, and have only read articles about him.  I do not know his thoughts or motivations.

What I can impart to you are my thoughts and opinions about his work.

I believe that this type of work is lazy and exploitative.

Is it a joke?  When Marcel Duchamp took a porcelain urinal, turned it upside down and entered it in an open art exhibit with the title “Fountain”, he was illustrating a point that everyday objects could be seen in a different way, and he was taking advantage of the open call for the exhibit to make a joke.  He never thought it would be taken seriously, much less give rise to the artistic directions of found art and conceptual art.

I think Prince’s work has more to do with the art of the “legal” rather than the art of the “creative.”

All of this is unfortunate for the person trying to appreciate and understand art. Is it an artist’s inside joke, or game played by very rich people?  But perhaps the joke is on them.  I wonder, what will happen to those pieces sold by Gagosian Gallery for $90,000? Do the buyers truly love the pieces as speaking to their souls, or is it just a financial investment?  Will they try to turn around and sell them for a profit in a few years?  Will someone else be gullible enough to buy them at that point?

It is a perfect financial scheme – the gallery promotes and sells a high dollar work, and for a while, the pieces get re-sold in secondary markets.  What happens when no one wants to buy it again?  It is like the dot com boom and bust of the 1990’s.  People kept buying an selling the stocks of companies that never made a profit.  The stock prices kept going up until people realized that the companies were not making a profit(!) and the companies failed.  The last people left holding the stock, like a game of musical chairs, lost the game and their money.

Will someone ever sue the gallery or artist for their financial losses?  Very unlikely.

Here’s the point: Buy what you love.  Don’t buy it because someone says it will go up in value.

There is a financial aspect to buying art, as there is with buying a house or car.  If you buy art because you love it, it will enrich your life every day.  It will grow to be an important part of where you live and work.  And perhaps it will increase in value.  And if so, you can make the choice of selling it, or keeping it to enjoy, or passing it on as a legacy to your children or to the community.  Art is a piece of history, and in a most important way, it is a piece of your history.