Photographer’s Copyright Suit Against Richard Prince’s ‘Instagram Art’ To Go Ahead

In 2014, controversial artist Richard Prince had an exhibit of reappropriated Instagram images at the Gagosian Gallery in NYC, selling the prints for up to $100k each. He sought no permission for the Instagram images used, which led to photographer Donald Graham suing for copyright infringement. A judge has now ruled the suit can proceed.

In a gallery exhibition titled “New Portraits,” Prince displayed 38 portraits featuring other people’s photos that he had selected from his Instagram feeds. Some of these pieces sold for up to $100,000, despite being little more than enlarged Instagram screenshots. One of these 38 photos displayed was Graham’s image “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint”.

Real Bongo Nyah man a real Congo Nyah ✊ repost @indigoochild

A post shared by Jay Kirton Kwame Ka Asante (@rastajay92) on

The NYTimes reports that after Graham filed a lawsuit in 2015, Mr. Prince, the Gagosian Gallery, and Larry Gagosian asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the work was transformative.

However, US District Judge Sidney H. Stein has just ruled that the case would not be dismissed, saying “The primary image in both works is the photograph itself. Prince has not materially altered the composition, presentation, scale, color palette and media originally used by Graham.”

In a since-deleted tweet on July 19, Prince responded to the lawsuit:

Phony fraud photographers keep mooching me. Why? I changed the game. &their wizardry professorial boredom keeps coughing up a vick’sVAPOrub.
Richard Prince (@RichardPrince4)

Prince has previously escaped unscathed from similar copyright lawsuits, but there’s a chance that this time, he may see legal repercussions from his art.

Image credits: “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint” photograph in header by Donald Graham