Richard Prince’s New Portraits series – copyright and commentary


One of the recent exhibitions of Richard Prince – famous appropriation artist – called “New Portraits” consisted of Instagram photos (mainly selfies) by famous and not-so-famous semi-clad women. The artist enlarged the images, inkjet printed them on canvas and added his own cryptic comments underneath. The exhibition was successful and Prince’s portraits were sold for impressive prices. Afterwards, some persons depicted on the portraits initiated lawsuits for copyright infringement. While these cases are currently still pending, a discussion on this controversial exhibition is being conducted among practitioners.

As per The Art Newspaper “under US copyright law, the use of copyrighted material in a work of art is considered fair use if it comments on the original source material; Prince is leaving literal comments beneath the Instagram photos he reproduces” (citation from “Instagram model and makeup artist sues Richard Prince over copyright infringement”, ).

The case is topical since works by appropriation artists substantially affect traditional copyright rules. Please view the commentary on the issue by one of the’s favourite art law experts, Dr.Merima Bruncevic. (The video taken during the Cultural Heritage and Art Law: First Seminar for Practitioners, at Riga Graduate School of Law, 26th January 2017) remark: you are welcome to read another opinion on the appropriation art in the article of Maria Boicova-Wynants “Yours might have been yours, but now it is mine: appropriation artists and the shady area of coppyright” at