Thursday, May 21, 2015

Barely Human: Richard Prince

The world of art is a curious landscape. Once fraught with talent and skill, the 20th Century lowered the bar and it continues to sink into the mud. Still, history is full of crap. We only remember the best. Time will determine if anyone will remember Millie Brown's milk-vomit paintings

And there's really nothing inherently wrong with producing crap and passing it off as art. If you're inventive enough to find a market of socialites willing to part with $100,000 for a shellacked turd, by all means. Passing a blank canvas off as a million dollar message about loneliness or waste or whatever doesn't make you a villainous person, it just makes you a hack, and your clients morons. The threshold for mediocrity is beginning to fade and audiences are slowly recognizing a desire for something, anything, better. 

The true demons in the art world are those who can't claim to be artists at all. Let me introduce you to Richard Prince, if the internet hasn't already. This charlatan has been "re-appropriating" the artwork of others since the 1970s. In other words, he takes a photograph of a photograph, tweaks it a bit, and then claims it his own. 

When Shia LaBeouf released a graphic novel by David Clowes as his own "original" movie, he was briefly exiled to obscurity, only to resurface with an apology he lifted directly from Yahoo! Answers. But despite what was either a misguided publicity stunt of just sheer stupidity, The Beouf was faced with the costly consequences of plagiarism. 

The Thief

Yet somehow Richard Prince has evaded the consequences of both plagiarism and a complete lack of talent for four decades. His most recent collection is "New Portraits," a title that is both boringly ironic and painfully unoriginal, featuring "original" screenshots from the Instagram feeds of talented and mostly nameless photographers. 

What's almost as disgusting as Prince's blatant disregard for originality and his penchant for copyright loopholes is the fact that New York's Gagosian Gallery ran the exhibit for a month. Not only that, one was purchased for $90,000! His work has even been featured at and praised by the goddamn Guggenheim?! Honestly, what the fuck is wrong with people?!

And that is all bad enough to make Richard Prince perhaps the single worst person to weasel his way into the art world. Talentlessness, thievery, manipulation, and greed: these are all despicable traits. But what truly makes Richard Prince barely human is his undeserved ego and precise understanding that he is stealing. His own attitude towards his work is borderline sociopathic: "Copyright has never interested me." 

Well, copyright isn't designed to interest thieves who molest the talented work of others and then capitalize upon it, it's to protect the victims from people like Richard Prince. 

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