Everyone knows Andy Warhol’s famous artwork of Marilyn Monroe, which he sourced from promotional film stills. Just as prominent is the artist Richard Prince, who gained notoriety in the art world for taking images from advertisements and incorporating them into his art. So why all the commotion? A new exhibition at Sotheby’s presents a topic on the tip of everyone’s tongue – appropriation, and the limits of appropriation in art.
Appropriation in art has always existed, from ancient artists creating almost identical scenes to the modern landscape where everything is seemingly up for grabs and protected under various different laws. This exhibit brings this idea to the forefront. Some of the pieces featured are direct reproductions, while others are “inspired” pieces, like “copycat” versions of works by Jackson Pollock and Constantin Brancusi, but that are original work by another artist.
And true enough, the gang’s all here – but maybe not in the ways you expect. Andy Warhol is featured, certainly, but with his own works being reproduced by the artist Richard Pettibone. The same goes for Roy Lichtenstein. Chagall, Warhol’s Marilyn’s, Mondrian and even the Mona Lisa are all artists and works that are featured, in some form or other, in this intriguing exhibit. The question of validity or honesty in art, and the separation between an original and a copy in terms of response are glaring concepts that the exhibit brings up. What makes Vik Muniz’s “Mahana No Atua (Day of the Gods), After Gaugin (From Pictures of Pigment) a lesser artwork than an original Gaugin? Is it right that Banksy has catapulted to fame using a variety of images sourced from other places? Ask yourself these questions and more when you go see Icons: The Art of Appropriation at Sotheby’s S|2 in New York. The exhibit runs until October 16, 2015.