Richard Prince: Old selfies are “New Paintings” at Gagosian Gallery

One of my favorite selfies I took at the Jeff Koons show at the Whitney

One of my favorite selfies I took at the Jeff Koons show at the Whitney

Read this review on Metro New York

Download the PDF of this Metro review here

Appropriation artist Richard Prince is back at his controversial antics again with a series of “New Paintings.” Well, they’re “paintings” in that they’re ink-jet prints, and they’re “new” in that these are Instagram photos taken by other people. If the sheer absurdity of seeing the best selfies of everyone’s favorite social-media app in an art gallery is not enough, here are three other reason you cannot miss “New Paintings.”

For the rousing debate of Contemporary Art

These paintings are not strictly a product of Prince’s artistic genius. The “New Paintings” are not even painted by the artist himself, but are inkjet prints created from Instagram screenshots. Is this art or is this copyright infringement? Prince is not new to legal controversy — he was sued in 2013 by photographer Patrick Cariou, who claimed Prince unrightfully appropriated his art. Prince came out of court victorious, which only added to his work’s caustic mystique.

For bringing voyeurism from website to art gallery

Scrolling through an app filled with brunch pics and self-portraits is nothing more than another commute to work. But seeing shameless selfies of half-nude Instagram stars in an art gallery is a perfect parody of pop-culture. Party portraits of tattoo-clad women and Kate Moss seductively splayed out on a motorcycle are captured for posterity in gallery-sized proportions.

For the utter excitement of seeing someone you follow

Following just friends would demote Instagram to another Facebook. Part of the app’s fun is sneaking a peek at the extraordinary lifestyles of the rich and Internet famous. I followed three users depicted in the show: China Chow, an actress and model, Sky Ferreira, the starlet of indie rock, and Richard Prince himself — whose Instagram pic was, fittingly, a photo of someone else he did not even take. Coming from someone with abysmal Instagram stats, seeing the 903 likes karleyslutever (writer Karley Sciortino) received for her provocative snap unabashedly showcasing her necklace is shocking, and yet very indicative of our Internet culture.

If you go

Richard Prince’s ‘New Paintings’
Through Oct. 25
Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Gagosian Gallery
976 Madison Ave.


One comment

  1. Eric Wayne · October 22, 2014

    I like your selfie. You should have it blown up yourself to Prince proportions. It’s quite charming. Anyway, I think Prince can take credit for the idea and execution of the exhibition, though this is as much a curatorial exercise as an artistic one, and maybe much more so. He made aesthetic decision about which selfies to include, but so would a curator. As for individual “paintings” in the series, how much credit he can take for their impact in a new context depends on how intentional their success as images was. If it was unintentional, than his recontextualization and discovery is his own. It if was intentional, than he is capitalizing on someone else’s ingenuity.

    There is a problem with for-gallery art that is becoming clearer to me. Artists create works with a gallery space in mind, white walls and all. This necessitates complicity with a gallery/museum paradigm, it’s funding and backers. In this sense it is institutional art, because it must work in conjunction with the gallery/museum institution to exist, and even within the ideology. The institution become inextricable from the art, because it is part of the art itself, and can’t even be separated from the visual experience.

    And as for appropriation, is that new or interesting for anyone anymore? People were doing that when I was in college 25 years ago. People have been born and become adults since appropriation was already a bit moldy. For me, appropriation is pleasantly nostalgic, kind of like having a hamburger while living in China.

    Nowadays, most people see what art they see through their social media feeds. Prince’s work is hopelessly sterile in that context, where it cannot be differentiated from the original sources. In a world where everything is now appropriated and recontextualized (anyone can take a Jpeg of anything and put it in a new context), appropriation in a gallery setting is as fresh and relevant as snail mail.

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