The American artist Richard Prince is being sued for copyright infringement by the photographer Donald Graham, who claims Prince knowingly reproduced his 1997 photo Rastafarian Smoking a Joint without seeking permission.
The image was part of Prince’s 2014 exhibition New Portraits at Gagosian Gallery in New York, which included images that the artist had appropriated from Instagram posts, blown up and modified with added commentary.
Prince had not asked permission to use the images, and it is claimed he used Graham’s image after it was posted on the photo sharing site by a third person. Graham, a fashion, fine art and portrait photographer based in Seattle, said in his complaint that Prince’s reproduction of his photograph was not modified adequately to warrant being called an original work.
The Prince exhibition was subsequently shown at Gagosian’s Davies Street gallery in London in 2015, and according to US art market news site Artnet, the gallery and its owner Larry Gagosian are being sued alongside Prince in the complaint which was filed on 30 December 2015.
The Guardian has reported that works from the exhibition sold subsequently for up to $100,000 at New York’s Frieze art fair, while the work featuring the Rastafarian Smoking a Joint image was bought by Gagosian after the exhibition closed.
Cease and desist
Artnet says the action follows reports in early 2015 that Graham’s attorney at the time had sent cease and desist letters to both Gagosian and Prince following the show.
Earlier in 2014, Graham had taken to Instagram to protest at Prince’s uncredited use of his image with one post featuring the smoking Rastafarian image accompanied by the text: “How to credit a work: ‘Rastafarian Smoking a Joint’ © 1997 Donald Graham. #PrinceofAppropriation”.
This is not the first time Prince has run into copyright issues over his use of other artist’s images. In 2014, he settled a copyright case with the photographer Patrick Cariou, originally filed in 2008, whose images, also of the Rastafarian community, Prince had reproduced in his Canal Zone series of mixed media paintings.