Appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The use of appropriation has played a significant role in the history of the arts (literary, visual, musical and performing arts). In the visual arts, to appropriate means to properly adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture. Notable in this respect are the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp.
Inherent in our understanding of appropriation is the concept that the new work recontextualizes whatever it borrows to create the new work. In most cases the original 'thing' remains accessible as the original, without change.
Appropriation has been defined as "the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art." The Tate Gallery traces the practise back to Cubism and Dadaism, but continuing into 1940s Surrealism and 1950s Pop art. It returned to prominence in the 1980s with the Neo-Geo artists.
In the early twentieth century Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque appropriated objects from a non-art context into their work. In 1912, Picasso pasted a piece of oil cloth onto the canvas. Subsequent compositions, such as Guitar, Newspaper, Glass and Bottle (1913) in which Picasso used newspaper clippings to create forms, became categorized as synthetic cubism. The two artists incorporated aspects of the "real world" into their canvases, opening up discussion of signification and artistic representation.
Marcel Duchamp is credited with introducing the concept of the ready-made, in which "industrially produced utilitarian objects...achieve the status of art merely through the process of selection and presentation." Duchamp explored this notion as early as 1913 when he mounted a stool with a bicycle wheel and again in 1915 when he purchased a snow shovel and humorously inscribed it “in advance of the broken arm, Marcel Duchamp.” In 1917, Duchamp formally submitted a readymade into the Society of Independent Artists exhibition under the pseudonym, R. Mutt. Entitled Fountain, it consisted of a porcelain urinal that was propped atop a pedestal and signed "R. Mutt 1917". The work posed a direct challenge to traditional perceptions of fine art, ownership, originality and plagiarism, and was subsequently rejected by the exhibition committee. Duchamp publicly defended Fountain, claiming "whether Mr.Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view—and created a new thought for that object."
The Dada movement (including Duchamp as an associate) continued with the appropriation of everyday objects. Dada works featured deliberate irrationality and the rejection of the prevailing standards of art. Kurt Schwitters, who produced art at the same time as the Dadaists, shows a similar sense of the bizarre in his "merz" works. He constructed these from found objects, and they took the form of large constructions that later generations would call installations.
The Surrealists, coming after the Dada movement, also incorporated the use of 'found objects' such as Méret Oppenheim's Object (Luncheon in Fur) (1936). These objects took on new meaning when combined with other unlikely and unsettling objects.
In 1938 Joseph Cornell produced what might be considered the first work of film appropriation in his randomly cut and reconstructed film Rose Hobart.
In the 1950s Robert Rauschenberg used what he dubbed "combines", literally combining readymade objects such as tires or beds, painting, silk-screens, collage, and photography. Similarly, Jasper Johns, working at the same time as Rauschenberg, incorporated found objects into his work.
The Fluxus art movement also utilised appropriation: its members blended different artistic disciplines including visual art, music, and literature. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s they staged "action" events and produced sculptural works featuring unconventional materials.
Along with artists such as Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol appropriated images from commercial art and popular culture as well as the techniques of these industries. Often called "pop artists", they saw mass popular culture as the main vernacular culture, shared by all irrespective of education. These artists fully engaged with the ephemera produced from this mass-produced culture, embracing expendability and distancing themselves from the evidence of an artist's hand.
In 1958 Bruce Conner produced the influential A Movie in which he recombined existing film clips. In 1958 Raphael Montanez Ortiz produced Cowboy and Indian Film, a seminal appropriation film work.
In the late 1970s Dara Birnbaum was working with appropriation to produce feminist works of art. In 1978-79 she produced one of the first video appropriations. Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman utilised video clips from the Wonder Woman television series.
The term appropriation art was in common use in the 1980s with artists such as Sherrie Levine, who addressed the act of appropriating itself as a theme in art. Levine often quotes entire works in her own work, for example photographing photographs of Walker Evans. Challenging ideas of originality, drawing attention to relations between power, gender and creativity, consumerism and commodity value, the social sources and uses of art, Levine plays with the theme of "almost same". Elaine Sturtevant (also known simply as Sturtevant), on the other hand, painted and exhibited perfect replicas of famous works. She replicated Andy Warhol's Flowers in 1965 at the Bianchini Gallery in New York. She trained to reproduce the artist's own technique—to the extent that when Warhol was repeatedly questioned on his technique, he once answered "I don't know. Ask Elaine."
During the 1970s and 1980s Richard Prince re-photographed advertisements such as for Marlboro cigarettes or photo-journalism shots. His work takes anonymous and ubiquitous cigarette billboard advertising campaigns, elevates the status and focusses our gaze on the images.
Appropriation artists comment on all aspects of culture and society. Joseph Kosuth appropriated images to engage with philosophy and epistemological theory. Other artists working with appropriation during this time with included Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Greg Colson, and Malcolm Morley.
In the 1990s artists continued to produce appropriation art, using it as a medium to address theories and social issues, rather than focussing on the works themselves. Damian Loeb used film and cinema to comment on themes of simulacrum and reality. Other high-profile artists working at this time included Christian Marclay, Deborah Kass, Damien Hirst and Genco Gulan.
In the digital age
Since the 1990s, the exploitation of historical precursors is as multifarious as the concept of appropriation is unclear. A hitherto unparalleled quantity of appropriations pervades not only the field of the visual arts, but of all cultural areas. The new generation of appropriators considers themselves "archeolog[es] of the present time". Some speak of "postproduction", which is based on pre-existing works, to re-edit "the screenplay of culture". The annexation of works made by others or of available cultural products mostly follows the concept of use. So-called "prosumers"—those consuming and producing at the same time—browse through the ubiquitous archive of the digital world (more seldom through the analog one), in order to sample the ever accessible images, words, and sounds via 'copy-paste' or 'drag-drop' to 'bootleg', 'mashup' or 'remix' them just as one likes. Appropriations have today become an everyday phenomenon.
The new "generation remix"—who have taken the stages not only of the visual arts, but also of music, literature, dance and film—causes, of course, highly controversial debates. Media scholars Lawrence Lessig coined in the begin of the 2000s here the term of the remix culture. On the one hand are the celebrators who foresee a new age of innovative, useful, and entertaining ways for art of the digitized and globalized 21st century. The new appropriationists will not only realize Joseph Beuys' dictum that everyone is an artist but also "build free societies". By liberating art finally from traditional concepts such as aura, originality, and genius, they will lead to new terms of understanding and defining art. More critical observers see this as the starting point of a huge problem. If creation is based on nothing more than carefree processes of finding, copying, recombining and manipulating pre-existing media, concepts, forms, names, etc. of any source, the understanding of art will shift in their sight to a trivialized, low-demanding, and regressive activity. In view of the limitation of art to references to pre-existing concepts and forms, they foresee endless recompiled and repurposed products. Skeptics call this a culture of recycling with an addiction to the past
Some say that only lazy people who have nothing to say let themselves be inspired by the past in this way. Others fear, that this new trend of appropriation is caused by nothing more than the wish of embellishing oneself with an attractive genealogy. The term appropriationism reflects the overproduction of reproductions, remakings, reenactments, recreations, revisionings, reconstructings, etc. by copying, imitating, repeating, quoting, plagiarizing, simulating, and adapting pre-existing names, concepts and forms. Appropriationism is discussed—in comparison of appropriation forms and concepts of the 20th century which offer new representations of established knowledge—as a kind of "racing standstill", referring to the acceleration of random, uncontrollable operations in highly mobilised, fluid Western societies that are governed more and more by abstract forms of control. Unlimited access to the digital archive of creations and easily feasible digital technologies, as well as the priority of fresh ideas and creative processes over a perfect masterpiece leads to a hyperactive hustle and bustle around the past instead of launching new expeditions into unexplored territory that could give visibility to the forgotten ghosts and ignored phantoms of our common myths and ideologies.
Appropriation art and copyright
Appropriation art has resulted in contentious copyright issues regarding its validity under copyright law. The U.S. has been particularly litigious in this respect. A number of case-law examples have emerged that investigate the division between transformative works and derivative works.
Andy Warhol faced a series of lawsuits from photographers whose work he appropriated and silk-screened. Patricia Caulfield, one such photographer, had taken a picture of flowers for a photography demonstration for a photography magazine. Without her permission, Warhol covered the walls of Leo Castelli's New York gallery with his silk-screened reproductions of Caulfield's photograph in 1964. After seeing a poster of Warhol's unauthorized reproductions in a bookstore, Caulfield sued Warhol for violating her rights as the copyright owner, and Warhol made a cash settlement out of court.
On the other hand, Warhol's famous Campbell's Soup Cans are generally held to be non-infringing of the soup maker's trademark, despite being clearly appropriated, because "the public was unlikely to see the painting as sponsored by the soup company or representing a competing product. Paintings and soup cans are not in themselves competing products", according to expert trademark lawyer Jerome Gilson.
Jeff Koons has also confronted issues of copyright due to his appropriation work (see Rogers v. Koons). Photographer Art Rogers brought suit against Koons for copyright infringement in 1989. Koons' work, String of Puppies sculpturally reproduced Rogers' black-and-white photograph that had appeared on an airport greeting card that Koons had bought. Though he claimed fair use and parody in his defense, Koons lost the case, partially due to the tremendous success he had as an artist and the manner in which he was portrayed in the media. The parody argument also failed, as the appeals court drew a distinction between creating a parody of modern society in general and a parody directed at a specific work, finding parody of a specific work, especially of a very obscure one, too weak to justify the fair use of the original.
In October 2006, Koons successfully defended a different work by claiming "fair use". For a seven-painting commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, Koons drew on part of a photograph taken by Andrea Blanch titled Silk Sandals by Gucci and published in the August 2000 issue of Allure magazine to illustrate an article on metallic makeup. Koons took the image of the legs and diamond sandals from that photo (omitting other background details) and used it in his painting Niagara, which also includes three other pairs of women's legs dangling surreally over a landscape of pies and cakes.
In his decision, Judge Louis L. Stanton of U.S. District Court found that Niagara was indeed a "transformative use" of Blanch's photograph. "The painting's use does not 'supersede' or duplicate the objective of the original", the judge wrote, "but uses it as raw material in a novel way to create new information, new aesthetics and new insights. Such use, whether successful or not artistically, is transformative."
The detail of Blanch's photograph used by Koons is only marginally copyrightable. Blanch has no rights to the Gucci sandals, "perhaps the most striking element of the photograph", the judge wrote. And without the sandals, only a representation of a woman's legs remains—and this was seen as "not sufficiently original to deserve much copyright protection."
In 2000, Damien Hirst's sculpture Hymn (which Charles Saatchi had bought for a reported £1m) was exhibited in Ant Noises in the Saatchi Gallery. Hirst was sued for breach of copyright over this sculpture. The subject was a 'Young Scientist Anatomy Set' belonging to his son Connor, 10,000 of which are sold a year by Hull (Emms) Toy Manufacturer. Hirst created a 20-foot, six-ton enlargement of the Science Set figure, radically changing the perception of the object. Hirst paid an undisclosed sum to two charities, Children Nationwide and the Toy Trust in an out-of-court settlement. The charitable donation was less than Emms had hoped for. Hirst sold three more copies of his sculpture for similar amounts to the first.
Appropriating a familiar object to make an art work can prevent the artist claiming copyright ownership. Jeff Koons threatened to sue a gallery under copyright, claiming that the gallery infringed his proprietary rights by selling bookends in the shape of balloon dogs. Koons abandoned that claim after the gallery filed a complaint for declaratory relief stating, "As virtually any clown can attest, no one owns the idea of making a balloon dog, and the shape created by twisting a balloon into a dog-like form is part of the public domain."
In 2008, photojournalist Patrick Cariou sued artist Richard Prince, Gagosian Gallery and Rizzoli books for copyright infringement. Prince had appropriated 40 of Cariou's photos of Rastafari from a book, creating a series of paintings known as Canal Zone. Prince variously altered the photos, painting objects, oversized hands, naked women and male torsos over the photographs, subsequently selling over $10 million worth of the works. In March 2011, a judge ruled in favor of Cariou, but Prince and Gargosian appealed on a number of points. Three judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the right to an appeal. Prince's attorney argued that "Appropriation art is a well-recognized modern and postmodern art form that has challenged the way people think about art, challenged the way people think about objects, images, sounds, culture" On April 24, 2013, the appeals court largely overturned the original decision, deciding that many of the paintings had sufficiently transformed the original images and were therefore a permitted use. See Cariou v. Prince.
In November 2010, Chuck Close threatened legal action against computer artist Scott Blake for creating a Photoshop filter that built images out of dissected Chuck Close paintings. The story was first reported by online arts magazine Hyperallergic, it was reprinted on the front page of Salon.com, and spread rapidly through the web. Kembrew McLeod, author of several books on sampling and appropriation, said in Wired that Scott Blake’s art should fall under the doctrine of fair use.
In September 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit questioned the Second Circuit's interpretation of the fair use doctrine in the Cariou case. Of particular note, the Seventh Circuit noted that "transformative use" is not one of the four enumerated fair use factors but is, rather, simply part of the first fair use factor which looks to the "purpose and character" of the use. The Seventh Circuit's critique lends credence to the argument that there is a split among U.S. courts as to what role "transformativeness" is to play in any fair use inquiry.
In 2013, Andrew Gilden and Timothy Greene published a law review article in The University of Chicago Law Review dissecting the factual similarities and legal differences between the Cariou case and the Salinger v. Colting case, articulating concerns that judges may be creating a fair use "privilege largely reserved for the rich and famous."
Artists using appropriation
The following are notable artists known for their use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them:
- Ai Kijima
- Aleksandra Mir
- Andy Warhol
- Barbara Kruger
- Benjamin Edwards
- Bern Porter
- Bill Jones
- Brian Dettmer
- Burhan Dogancay
- Christian Marclay
- Cindy Sherman
- Claes Oldenburg
- Cornelia Sollfrank
- Cory Arcangel
- Craig Baldwin
- Damian Loeb
- Damien Hirst
- David Salle
- Deborah Kass
- Dominique Mulhem
- Douglas Gordon
- Elaine Sturtevant
- Eric Doeringer
- Fatimah Tuggar
- Felipe Jesus Consalvos
- Genco Gulan
- General Idea
- Georges Braque
- Gerhard Richter
- Ghada Amer
- Glenn Brown
- Gordon Bennett
- Graham Rawle
- Graig Kreindler
- Greg Colson
- Hans Haacke
- Hans-Peter Feldman
- J. Tobias Anderson
- Jake and Dinos Chapman
- James Cauty
- Jasper Johns
- Jeff Koons
- Joan Miró
- John Baldessari
- John McHale
- John Stezaker
- Joseph Cornell
- Joseph Kosuth
- Joy Garnett
- Karen Kilimnik
- Kelley Walker
- Kenneth Goldsmith
- Kurt Schwitters
- Lennie Lee
- Leon Golub
- Louise Lawler
- Luc Tuymans
- Luke Sullivan
- Malcolm Morley
- Marcel Duchamp
- Marcus Harvey
- Mark Divo
- Marlene Dumas
- Martin Arnold
- Matthieu Laurette
- Max Ernst
- Meret Oppenheim
- Michael Landy
- Mike Bidlo
- Mike Kelley
- Miltos Manetas
- Nancy Spero
- Nikki S. Lee
- Norm Magnusson
- PJ Crook
- Pablo Picasso
- People Like Us
- Peter Saville
- Philip Taaffe
- Pierre Bismuth
- Pierre Huyghe
- Reginald Case
- Richard Prince
- Rick Prelinger
- Rob Scholte
- Robert Longo
- Robert Rauschenberg
- Shepard Fairey
- Sherrie Levine
- System D-128
- Ted Noten
- Thomas Ruff
- Tom Phillips
- Vik Muniz
- Vikky Alexander
- Vincent van Gogh
- Vivienne Westwood
- Yasumasa Morimura
- Chilvers, Ian & Glaves-Smith, John eds., Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. pp. 27-28
- Wilson, Simon; Lack, Jessica (2008), The Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms, London: Tate Publishing Ltd, pp. 20–21, ISBN 978-1-85437-750-0
- Elger, D. (2006). Dadaism. Koln: Taschen, pp. 80
- Evans, D (ed.).(2009). Appropriation: Documents of contemporary art. London and Cambridge: Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press, pp. 40
- Cabanne, P., and Snowdon, P. (1997). Duchamp & Co. Paris: Terrail, pp. 105
- Cabanne, P., and Snowdon, P. (1997). Duchamp & Co. Paris: Terrail, pp. 114
- Plant, S. (1992). The most radical gesture: The Situationist International in a postmodern age. London and New York: Routledge, pp.44
- Welchman, John (2013). Art After Appropriation: Essays on Art in the 1990s. Routledge. pp. 33, 190. ISBN 978-1-136-80136-5.
- Meigh-Andrews, Chris (2013). A History of Video Art (2nd ed.). London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-85785-188-8.
- Hans Ulrich Obrist (19 May 2014). "Elaine Sturtevant obituary". The Guardian.
- Graf, Marcus (October 6, 2013). "Self Portrait? by Genco Gülan". Visual Art Beat.
- Paolo Bianchi, quoted by Hedinger J.; Meyer, T. (2011). "Introduction to Whats next". Kadmos. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
- Bourriaud, Nicolas (2002). Postproduction. Culture as screenplay. How art reprograms the world. New York: Lucas & Sternberg.
- cf. Toffler, Alvin (1980). The third wave. The classic study of tomorrow. New York: Bantam.
- Djordjevic, V.; Dobusch, L., eds. (2014). Generation Remix. iRights Media.
- Download Lessig’s Remix, Then Remix It on wired.com (May 2009)
- Hardy, S. "Rip!: A Remix Manifesto". Creative Generalist. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
- cf. Reynolds, Simon (2011). Retro Mania Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past. London:: Faber & Faber.
- Albini, Steve, quoted by Benjamin Franzen; Kembrew McLeod (2009). Copyright Criminals. documentary film.
- cf. Diedrichsen, Diedrich (September 2008). "Showfreaks und Monster". Texte zur Kunst. Artists' Artists. No. 71: 150.
- Aden, Maike (April 2016). "Let's dance like we used to.... A critical intervention on a new trend of Appropriationism" (PDF). Kunstchronik. No. 4: 201.
- Aden, Maike (Summer 2016). "Ulises Carrión Carries On!". Journal of Artists' Books (JAB). No. 40, in prep.
- cf. Virilio, Paul (1992). Rasender Stillstand. München: Hanser.
- "Andy Warhol's Flower Paintings".
- as quoted in Grant,Daniel, The Business of Being an Artist (New York: Allworth Press, 1996), p. 142
- Whiting, Sam (February 4, 2011). "Jeff Koons' balloon-dog claim ends with a whimper". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- ALLEN, EMMA (January 21, 2011). "6 Hilarious Zingers From the Balloon-Dog Freedom Suit Filed Against Jeff Koons". BlouinArtinfo.
- Corbett, Rachel; "A Win for Richard Prince in Copyright Case", Artnet Magazine, 2011
- Pollack, Barbara, "Copy Rights", ARTnews LLC, March 22, 2012.
- RANDY KENNEDY (April 25, 2013). "Court Rules in Artist's Favor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
- "Seventh Circuit Criticizes Second Circuit's "Transformative Use" Approach to Fair Use | Publications | Proskauer". www.proskauer.com. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
- Masnick, Mike. "Chuck Close Succeeds In Stifling A Creative Homage... But Only For Another 100 Years Or So!", Techdirt, July 16, 2012. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
- Doctorow, Cory. "Letter to Chuck Close from the digital artist whom he threatened with a lawsuit", BoingBoing, July 11, 2012. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
- Vartanian, Hrag. "The Most Popular Hyperallergic Posts of 2012", Hyperallergic, December 26, 2012. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
- Dayal, Geeta. "How the Artist Who Built the 'Chuck Close Filter' Got Slammed by Chuck Close", Wired, July 10, 2012. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
- "Fair Use for the Rich and Fabulous? | The University of Chicago Law Review | The University of Chicago". lawreview.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
- (es) Juan Martín Prada (2001) La Apropiación Posmoderna: Arte, Práctica apropiacionista y Teoría de la Posmodernidad. Fundamentos. ISBN 978 84 2450 8814.
- Michalis Pichler : Statements on Appropriation
- Appropriation Art Coalition-Canada
- Blanche v. Koons Decision (August 2005)
- Koons Wins Landmark Copyright Lawsuit 1/2006
- Koons wins appeal (2006)
- Creative Commons
- Free Culture an international student movement
- The New York Institute for the Humanities Comedies of Fair U$e conference (Archive.org)
- Open Source Culture: Intellectual Property, Technology, and the Arts, Columbia Digital Media Center lecture series
- Public Domain
- Sherri Levine Interview
- transordinator/edition Remixing conceptual artworks