After reading the news this week that Luc Tuymans was found guilty of plagiarism I started to consider my own practice, and that of other major artist concerning the use of previous images, made by photographers and painters, to create new work. As, to misquote Picasso:
‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’
How can the creation of new work be plagiarism? Where, if this is the case, can you draw the line? Here are a just few of examples where great artists have used images of others work to create new work, some changed radically from the original, some very similar:
Manet’s Olympia from Titian’s Venus of Urbino
J. Seward Johnson’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe from Manet’s painting of the same name
Andy Warhol’s whole scale use of newspaper photographs, especially the ‘death’ series.
Sickert’s later work
Etc. etc, etc.
I am always using found images to create new work. Am I to be worried that if these works are shown or sold that I too might be taken to court for plagiarism? Or is it a case that this will only happen if the financial rewards would be big enough for the lawyers etc. to involve themselves in such nonsense.
If we go back to Duchamp’s original urinal concept of (to badly paraphrase), ‘If (as an artist) I say that any object is art, then it is art’ and place this into the current court case scenario, then surely any designer and maker of any found object could, if they wanted, say that the artist has plagiarised their design and work, whether it is an exact copy or the original item.
Where does this leave us? I am not sure. But I know for me it is all about context and creativity, maybe for others it is not, it is just about money.