Renowned American artist Richard Prince has been ordered to destroy works worth tens of millions of dollars after the New York federal court ruled that the paintings, which featured reworked photographs by French photographer Patrick Cariou were found to be in breach of copyright. Prince exhibited a series of works in a 2008 show which used 35 photographs from Cariou’s 2000 book “Yes, Rasta.” The photographs were used almost in their entirity with Prince adding things like a painted electric guitar and splodges for eyes. Eight works from the 2008 “Canal Zone” exhibition were sold for more than $10mUSD all together, with seven others being exchanged for other works of art valued between $6m-8m.
Prince has always used appropriation as a means of creating works with his lawyers pleading that Cariou’s photographs were “mere compilations of facts … arranged with minimum creativity … [and were] therefore not protectable” by copyright law. Of the electric guitar he added to one of the photographs, Prince testified: “He plays the guitar now. It looks like he’s always played the guitar, that’s what my message was.”
Neither Prince nor the Gagosian Gallery asked permission to use Cariou’s photographs or withdrew them from sale when the photographer sent them notice of the breech.
Ahead of a damages ruling set to take place on 6 May, the court has ordered Prince and the Gallery to destroy all the paintings and exhibition catalogues and to advise buyers that “the paintings were not lawfully made and cannot lawfully be displayed.”
The ruling also stated: “It is clear that the market for Cariou’s photos was usurped by [Prince and Gagosian] … the court finds that Prince has unfairly damaged both the actual and potential markets for Cariou’s original work and the potential market for derivative-use licences for Cariou’s original work.”
Source: The Guardian