A polarising legal case of artistic appropriation has been settled this week – in court, anyhow. In a case that has been ongoing since 2011, Richard Prince was cleared of plaigiarism and copyright charges by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday, who decided largely in favor of the artist, found by a federal court two years ago to have illegally used photographs from Yes Rasta, a book on Rastafarians in Jamaica, by Patrick Cariou. Prince used the photographs to make a series of collages and paintings entitled Canal Zone, that exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in 2008.
To cut a long story short, the appeals court came to their decision based on the fact that Prince’s work manifested “an entirely different aesthetic” from Mr. Cariou’s pictures. Canal Zone is of a decidedly dystopian nature.
“Where Cariou’s serene and deliberately composed portraits and landscape photographs depict the natural beauty of the Rastafarians and their surrounding environs,” the decision stated, “Prince’s crude and jarring works, on the other hand, are hectic and provocative.”
While the case has apparently found closure in court, it doesn’t end the debate on fair use or appropriation in art. In the initial case, where Prince was found guilty, the judge wrote that for fair use to apply, a new work of art must be transformative — that it must, “in some way comment on, relate to the historical context of, or critically refer back to the original work.” So of course, now we are left to ponder just how a piece of art becomes “transformative” enough to legally pass under the eye of the law. (via)