The Appropriator Appropriated: Fairey-like images of Steve Jobs and Ron Paul (not to mention the famously exploited Robert Indiana “Love”) being sold by a vendor recently in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
[UPDATE: You can hear me here.]
I was surprised by a call this afternoon from WNYC, asking me to comment on a subject that I have conspicuously and deliberately avoided on CultureGrrl. I usually have strong opinions on everything I blog about, but on this topic, I’m painfully ambivalent (which is why I’ve skirted it).
The occasion for the call was Shepard Fairey‘s guilty plea to criminal charges involving his previously admitted destruction of documents and manufacturing of evidence. The case arose from Fairey’s famous (or infamous) appropriation of Associated Press freelance photographer Mannie Garcia‘s shot of Barack Obama. That photo was the basis for the colorful “Hope” poster that became an iconic image in the last Presidential campaign. The civil case brought by AP for the alleged infringement was settled out of court a year ago.
It’s not the criminal conviction for illegal activities that I’m ambivalent about. That seemed a foregone conclusion (which may be why Fairey decided to give up and hope for leniency). The civil case, regarding the tension between intellectual property rights and artistic freedom is what’s still got me tied up in knots.
The popular artworld stance is that anything out there should be fodder for the artistic imagination. Warhol (who also got sued) is the always-cited appropriation example. But I can’t help also being concerned about artists’ exploiting, without permission, copyrighted work by other professionals who earn their livings by being content providers.
If all goes according to plan [sometimes it doesn’t; see below], you may hear me wrestle with this quandary in a soundbite after 6 p.m. today on WNYC (perhaps also to be repeated during the weekend). You can click the “Listen Now” link in the right column of the station’s website, or hear it in the New York metropolitan area on 93.9 FM or 820 AM.
If and when the brief segment goes up on the station’s website, I’ll link to it below and embed the audio, if possible.
I should end the week by thanking the 12 CultureGrrl Donors who heeded my plea two weeks ago to support the Comeback of CultureGrrl. I hope others will copy their creative act.
UPDATE: There’s nothing on WNYC’s website at this writing (aside from its earlier report on the guilty plea), and I don’t know whether my comments were aired. If I learn more, so will you.