Sampling or stealing? It's not just a question for DJs

"Cariou's images of the Rastafari have simply afforded him an opportunistic canvass of black bodies which he has distorted and defaced for whatever possible freakish shock value they may elicit. He has inverted whatever Cariou set out to accomplish, dismissing other people's sensibility of themselves as irrelevant to his 'art.' He could just as readily used the dead bodies of holocaust victims in his phornographic presentation."


"Appropriationist" artists like Richard Prince and Jeff Koons are running into trouble with "sampling" just as musicians have. It's all about copyright, or lack thereof. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Grant reports on recent cases, and the legal gray areas in which they reside. The lawsuit against Prince was filed by French photographer Patrick Cariou, who accuses Prince of making unfair use of Cariou's photos of Rastafarian culture in Jamaica. Prince first made a name for himself by re-photographing those infamous Marlboro Man "cowboy" ads, as in the photo at left. Just as he arguably "transformed" those ads, he used Cariou's photos as materials for his own paintings, transforming them (and commenting upon them) in the process. But as Grant points out, one man's "transforming" is another man's "stealing."

But there are other reasons to be upset about Prince's Rastafarian series, at least according to one observer. A story about the case in Art Newspaper provoked an ethnographer to comment that Prince's paintings are offensive because they're racist. Read his angry criticisms after the jump.

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