Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash sued for copyright infringement over Run DMC image

Run-DMC.jpg mbwinvite.jpg Above Top: Photo of Run DMC, taken by Glen E. Friedman
Above Bottom: Invitation Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash used for his debut exhibition 'Life Is Beautiful'

Earlier this month I noted that Banksy had finally spoken about the artist Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) profiled in his now Oscar nominated film Exit Through the Gift Shop . Still, suspicions run fairly rampant that he either doesn't exist or is merely the latest prank creation by Banksy. Guetta has now given sworn statements that the artwork is his own, as he's the subject of a copyright lawsuit initiated by photographer Glen E. Friedman. The two Run DMC images above should make that fairly obvious (as well as several others after the jump).

Friedman is arguing that Guetta used, without credit or permission, his iconic photo of Run DMC on invitations, artworks, merchandise and promotional materials. The Hollywood Reporter broke this story, connected some of the dots between many of the people involved, and then suggested it's basically the same situation as the Associated Press vs. Shepard Fairey case surrounding the Obama 'Hope' image. It's not, and for number of reasons which I'll get to in a second.

First, those dots: Shepard Fairey appeared in Banksy's film about Thierry Guetta, in fact he was the person who introduced Guetta to Banksy. Shepard Fairey and Glen E. Friedman have collaborated on many projects together in the past. And to disclose my connection to this, I previously co ran an art gallery that worked closely with Fairey, Friedman and Guetta's cousin, Space Invader. I met Guetta many times via the gallery, long before he became Mr. Brainwash. Glen and I were both deposed in relation to Shepard's dispute with the Associated press, and I consider both he and Shepard personal friends.

Now that that is out of the way - the major difference between the two cases is the use of an iconic image. In the Fairey v. AP case, Shepard used a random press image that was not iconic in anyway and changed it significantly. In fact the photographer who took the original image, Mannie Garcia, has stated that he didn't even recognize that the 'HOPE' image which he had seen for months while covering the Obama campaign was based on his photo which says quite a bit about both how much Shepard changed it, and how unremarkable of a photo it was in the first place.

In the Friedman v Guetta case, not only is the photo already famous and iconic, it's arguably *the most* famous photo of Run DMC that exists. In fact it was used as the cover image on a 20 year retrospective of photos of the group. The argument could easily be made that Guetta used the photo specifically for this reason, it was already iconic, very well known and he used it in his artwork because of that. He wasn't just referencing Run DMC, he was referencing the most famous photo of them. Additionally he used it in several instances throughout his exhibition, never once crediting Friedman as the creator of the original photo.

Shepard has argued that he believes what he did was covered by Fair Use laws, and references many instances of artwork he's created non-fair use works based on iconic images where he's worked with, and credited the photographer involve (such as the collaborations with Friedman). The photo of Obama by Garcia *became* iconic after Shepard used it, prior to that it was not noteworthy. In the Guetta case, there's no question the photo was iconic long before Guetta ever stepped onto the scene - and had been registered and sold as artwork on it's own right by Friedman for years.

At face value the cases might seem similar and contradictory, but those are in fact extremely important differences.

All that aside this case is interesting for many reasons. It should put to rest the speculation that Mr. Brainwash is just a creation of Banksy's. Should Friedman win the case, expect other artists and copyright holders to come out of the woodwork as basically every piece of artwork by Guetta is just a twist on an already well known image created, and uncredited, by someone else. What will happen to the values of the Guetta/MBW works that were sold at, as some have suggested, incredibly inflated prices to begin with? I think this story is long from over, and can't wait to see what happens in Exit Through The Gift Shop 2.

Below: 20th Anniversary Run DMC image, with image by Friedman, followed by several other works by Guetta using Friedman's image.






    1. Read the settlement – neither side admitted wrong doing, nor was any settlement other than the agreement to work together in the future agreed on. Shepard still maintains it was Fair Use.

      1. According to that link, the settlement included “additional financial terms that will remain confidential.” That reads to me like Fairey was sued for using an image he should not have used without credit and that he paid up as a result of it.

        Whatever both sides say after the fact is just a nicey-nice PR whitewash of the end result. IANCL but it would seem to me like it was possible that what Fairey did would NOT have been seen as Fair Use if a court had to decide.

        There may be something in the law that I am missing but it looks like the same situation, except that Fairey had the cash to pony up the money he needed to pay up.

      2. I can’t read the settlement. Neither can you. It’s private. Both sides probably agreed to keep the actual terms confidential. You can check the docket here:

        Fairey can continue to claim fair use all he wants. The AP press release makes it pretty clear Fairey is the one who had to give ground here:

        “The two sides have also agreed to work together going forward with the Hope image and share the rights to make the posters and merchandise bearing the Hope image and to collaborate on a series of images that Fairey will create based on AP photographs.”

        That’s either revenue-sharing on future sales, or a grantback so AP can profit by selling its own versions of hope. But it also sounds like he’s agreed to take more licenses from them in the future. You think those will be fair use too? I think “asking permission and getting a license in advance” is a relatively novel way for Mr. Fairey to choose his subjects.

        If he really believed he had a fair-use defense, why would he agree to give AP rights or pay them royalties?

        He traced the photo, Sean. Line for line. He admitted it. But it’s always been obvious- I mean, I put an animated GIF together in 2008 to demonstrate that he didn’t change a line:

        (can I post images here? I’ll try and then add a link).

        1. “The AP press release makes it pretty clear Fairey is the one who had to give ground…”

          ORLY? The AP press release? The one talking about the lawsuit the AP was involved with? Lovely unbiased source there.

          So if Jack and Jill got in a fight but made up behind closed doors, and then Jack told you it was all Jill’s fault, that would be undeniable fact then eh?

          The agreement says neither side admitted wrongdoing. If the AP had a change to get a court ruling in their favor that they could wave around as an example and use to go after other artists in the future do you really think, with all their cash and endless resources, they would have opted against that? They settled because they didn’t have a sure win.

          “He traced the photo, Sean. Line for line. He admitted it.”

          ORLYx2? I don’t recall ever seeing that or hearing it from him. Care to provide a link on that one? As I said under oath in my deposition on this case, as a gallery owner who represented Shepard for many years and saw his art creation process in person from start to finish again and again and again, I’ve never seen him trace anything. But for this one piece he just got a crazy hair up his ass and decided to do something totally different than usual?

          1. Isn’t his tracing exactly the source of the lawsuit? Fairey used Adobe Illustrator’s Auto-Trace function on the Manny Garcia photo provided to him by the Obama Campaign. I didn’t know that it was even in contention that Fairey had traced the image. His counter-suit pretty much stated that, from what I just read (though not specifically mentioned Illustrator).

            I’m not arguing for the validity of either position, just pointing out the detail. Virtually every article about the case discusses Fairey’s illegal use of the image. I agree with you that his version was, in my eyes, tranformative. I only see one image above that I would grant that qualification to, which would be the last one.

            That said, I’m not really sure how famous the image being should be relevant to the legal issue. That sounds like it might influence the rewards/damages, but not the actual law.

          2. Sean Bonner sez:

            ORLY? The AP press release? The one talking about the lawsuit the AP was involved with? Lovely unbiased source there.

            and then he sez:

            as a gallery owner who represented Shepard for many years and saw his art creation process in person from start to finish again and again and again, I’ve never seen him trace anything.

            So I am supposed to take your word for it because you said what you said under oath? I am not saying that he did trace anything or that you ever saw him trace anything but my point is that I will not dismiss the APs characterization of the proceedings any more than I will dismiss what you say because you are also involved.

            While it’s possible that Fairey decided to settle to just make the issue go away, I tend to believe that he settled because it was likely that he would have to pay some sort of damages. i.e. There was reason to believe that the court would find in favor of the AP because Fairey’s “fair use” defense was not very strong.

          3. “There was reason to believe that the court would find in favor of the AP because Fairey’s “fair use” defense was not very strong.”

            right, because he traced the outlines in the photo. There is simply no other explanation. Any “original” creative expression Fairey added was entirely dependent on the original photo.

            Whether he did it by hand or used Illustrator or GIMP or whatever doesn’t matter.

  1. In the Friedman v Guetta case, not only is the photo already famous and iconic, it’s arguably *the most* famous photo of Run DMC that exists.

    So what? That reads like a trademark defense.

    This use is clearly transformative, as was Fairey’s.

  2. I finally saw “Exit Through the Gift Shop” over the weekend. Total genius. I loved how all the icons of the street art movement appeared horrified by the monster they created by the end of the film.

    1. That was my favorite moment too… In fact, it almost made me worry that the entire enterprise was a ‘fake.’ (I have been abroad for more than a decade, so I certainly wouldn’t know any better)

      Also, wow, artists sure sue a lot of artists in the US.

    1. “Isn’t a case of not stealing from anyone who cares, like how Obey Giant’s creator hasn’t been sued?”

      Sometimes my subtle internet humor meter is broken, and I think this is one of those times. I hope.

      I don’t know of any lawsuits explicitly surrounding Obey Giant, but you do realize that the artist involved was one Shepard Fairey, right?

  3. as an “artist” and sometimes photog color me confused. it appears to me that Guetta used the image as reference and redrew it, is that correct? if so i am not sure how that is infringing on the original photogs copyright. Guetta didn’t use the original photo, made copies and made money off it, he used it as a reference. How is that different from any artist who uses a image, landmark or even “celebrity” as a reference when drawing/creating? or is Friedman saying that its copyrighted because of the pose? so we are copyrighting the way people stand now?

    if Guetta didn’t physically use the original work, i.e. the photo, i don’t see what the issue is. i wish somebody would use my work in this way.

  4. My suspicion from watching “Exit Through The Gift Shop” (possible spoiler alert) was that Banksy and Fairey put together this Mr. Brainwash show, with the whole point being to see if ridculously derivative artwork could be sold for high amounts of money because of a simple hype machine. It brings into question the whole “what is art” thing, and makes a mockery out of people who will spend a fortune on artwork.

    1. That was my suspicion as well but I can’t decide which explanation (original intent or the unintended consequence) I like better.

    2. Dada for the 21st Century? In a sense Banksy, Fairey, and Guetta are thinking along similar lines to Duchamp.

      1. “Dada for the 21st Century? In a sense Banksy, Fairey, and Guetta are thinking along similar lines to Duchamp.”

        NO Duchamp questioned, ‘What is art?’

        Banksy, Fairey, and Guetta question, ‘What will sell T-shirts?’

    3. BINGO. That is exactly what i got out of it, and it seems to be EXACTLY the kind of *smart* folly Banksy has built a good part of his public persona on.

  5. Where does use of an “iconic” image have anything to do with copyright?

    And things aren’t a fact because you think they are. If you are stating a fact, provide a reference.

  6. Is there some sort of provision in the Fair Use law that differs between a photograph that is iconic and one that is not? Was Guetta obligated to credit Friedman because the photo was iconic?

    There may be some specific language in the law that draws a distinction between what Fairey and Guetta did because one was “piggy backing” on the fame of a photograph but on the face of it, they both did the same thing. They used a photo, without credit, on a piece of artwork.

    1. Fair use isn’t law, it’s a defense argument against a charge of copyright infringement. Copyright is the law. There is a fair use provision. A usage is only decided to be fair use after a verdict from a legal proceeding. It is all quite nebulous, hence the confusion.

  7. Thierry Guetta surely exists. And he has surely made art under the name Mr. Brainswash. But the narrative presented in EttGS seems to be completely contrived to make a point. I mean, it’s right there in the movie, when Guetta talks about the fact that he just comes up with ideas and has other people glue them together. A more obvious put-on I can’t imagine.

    Again, I don’t doubt that Guetta has his own artistic point of view, works, and merit. But what we were shown in the film was, to my eye, just a fictional story woven by Banksy and everyone else involved to make a statement.

    1. …when Guetta talks about the fact that he just comes up with ideas and has other people glue them together.

      That’s not a point. Tons of artists have others execute their ideas into art objects. And some artists have simply created instructions that others follow to create their art: Sol LeWitt. You know one of the problems providing “provenance” to Andy Warhol’s works? Many of them were made by him but other items of his were done by assistants and others.

      Now in this case, I would say that Glen Friedman has a case due to the size, scope and uncreative use (not fair-use) of the images everywhere. But the past picture where there’s that older couple on a Sepia-ish tone with Jam Master Jay removed? That image in and of itself is the only piece that could have a fair-use argument.

      But this is all still kind of weird given how many people here know each other. I mean it seems odd to me this would suddenly come as a “shock” to Glen Friedman at any point. But hey, I’ve heard of weirder cases.

      1. Now in this case, I would say that Glen Friedman has a case due to the size, scope and uncreative use (not fair-use) of the images everywhere. But the past picture where there’s that older couple on a Sepia-ish tone with Jam Master Jay removed? That image in and of itself is the only piece that could have a fair-use argument.

        I’m no expert, but to my Philistine eye I’d have to agree that image is the only one that seems even mildly “transformative.”

  8. If Fairey really believed he was in the right with fair use, why did he try to cover his tracks by altering/destroying evidence? Also, he threatened to sue artists that used Fairey’s own work. I don’t think there’s any legal distinction between artwork that’s iconic and a blah, generic press photo. Both are owned properties.

  9. The difference between using an iconic image versus a relatively unknown one is tough to pin down, but still vast. An iconic work has, by definition, taken root in the public consciousness and created an intrinsic value beyond the sum of it’s parts. It’s the reason that it’s worthwhile to pay millions of dollars to use a Who or Rolling stones song in a car commercial, rather than pay some halfway decent studio musicians ten grand to record a generic rock-styled jingle that doesn’t hold specific meaning to the viewer.

    Of course, a great deal of “street art” (and much of the accompanying studio art of the past generation) relies on exactly this; appropriating images that are well known, then adding an ironic, occasionally clever, twist (see Ron English for a great example of somebody who does this very, very well). The noteworthy thing about this specific case is that MBW does so in a particularly transparent and vapid fashion, and clearly seems to be driven solely by financial gain (or, arguably, fame) rather than any desire to express anything original. And that is what, to me, separates him from Shepard, English, Zevs, Space invader, etc. I’d like to see him get sued straight back into obscurity, and I feel no pity for the “collectors” who helped him buy his fifteen minutes of my awareness.

    1. Does this mean that, legally, the use and appropriation of an image that is non-iconic is Ok?

      It would seem that the offense is the same and the major difference is the extent to which you may be on the hook for damages. Much in the same way that it would cost far more to license an iconic image, you would still be required to pay a license fee to the creator of any image they own exclusive rights to, however obscure it or it’s subject matter may be.

    2. I can party in Hicksville, North Dakota and spend about $30. I go to L.A. and do the same thing, it costs me $300. Same drinks and everything.

      I think people are bored of painting and are now doing some performance that explores how the context machine works.

  10. Anyone saying this is fair use has obviously never created anything of their own and had some idiot use it and make millions in their face. If MBW was using it for his own creative purpose indeed nothing is to be said, but he used it to bolster and give credibility to his then new career, with something that some one else already made and worked hard to make credible with the talent they possessed by CREATING the ORIGINAL.

    MBW then made money off of it, fair use is one thing, and Fairey never actually made any money from the obama poster that did not go back into the campaign, but this guy “appropriated” a great photo and sold it over and over on posters and paintings as well as to promote his very first show. The credibility gained from use of this iconic image, to this fool, is apparent. He’s should have to pay that skate-punk ass photographer a ton.

    It’s about time more frauds like MBW got uncovered, examples of Warhol etc., mean little, this is the 21st century, people who create should be well protected particularly against such commercial (art – ha ha) exploitation.

  11. @corpsereg & others

    I’ve run across this idea before, that using a piece of artwork as a reference (ie. converting it to a different medium). Unless something truly transformative occurs turning it into a different work, that concept is flat wrong. It does admittedly get sticky deciding what makes it a different work. Intent? Presentation? I’m not sure I know.

    As a photographer, though, it sucks to see people think the _print_ is the work. You see that in @corpsereg’s statement about this could be okay because the original photo wasn’t used. Most of the time the split-second the shutter opens is the most mechanical, least artistic, and least important part of what a photographer does. Coming up with a concept, getting everyone to the right place at the right time, arranging lighting… there are a hundred things that happen to create an image BEFORE the shutter snaps. Those things together create the art, and anyone trading on that captured moment is displaying the photographer’s work, no matter what medium they convert it to.

  12. Speaking of Warhol, how is this different from his Marilyn portraits or other similar works based on iconic images? If the work is sufficiently transformative, it’s fair use, icon or not.

  13. Yea, but had he — I don’t know — done something like put “OBEY” on every single one of his images, they would have been transformed into insightful social commentary and freaking High Art!

  14. The most relevant precedent is Rogers vs. Koons, which Jeff Koons lost. (He took an artist’s published photo of a bunch of puppies and made a sculpture based on it. A 3D copy.)


    If the Fairey/AP case made it to court, the Koons decision is probably what would have guided the trail.

  15. I do not think this is sufficiently transformative. These are, at best, “intro to painting/stenciling/photoshop” exercises, done with vague competence at best. I’ve seen better Photoshops than the last one coming out of 4chan.

    As an artist who has spent a large part of her life learning to hold a very personal mirror up to the world, the fact that this sort of work is taken seriously as something worth paying a lot of money for makes me very, very sad. There is little invention in it and only the most basic level of craft.

  16. I’m considering taking all of Lady Gaga’s songs and re-sampling them down to about 64kbps. I think that would be sufficiently transformative, ’cause I’m an artist and my body of work is about insightful phenomenological explorations of time and resolution and, in the larger context, what it means to be human in a digital world.

    1. It’s your right, by my measure to do that. It’s the public’s responsibility to recognize that as wack and not support it. Unless, of course, it is awesome. Gaga should have thought of that shit, then.

      1. It will be incredibly awesome, in part because it will be hardly noticeable in most contexts (audiophiles need not apply).

        See? The insights are already coming. Perhaps I’ll end up with a Pulitzer. Maybe not, but if I price it right I should be able to sell a lot.

        1. Oh, indeed. Just make sure to put your name on it, otherwise it’s bootlegging. I’m guessing Gaga will still sell more copies than you because she’s got the hott name and people who accept inferior product already stole that shit 3 months before it came out. For educational purposes, I’m sure.

  17. When your friends get together, do you all wear scuba gear so you don’t drown in a sea of rationalizations?

    You want judges to decide who made what iconic? Please. Are you saying that what Guetta did is stealing, but Fairey did isn’t because of the recognizability of the source image to the original artist. That’s some shaky-ass shit.

    Isn’t re-purposing something iconic more effective than a random image, anyway? If something doesn’t have context, does re-purposing do anything? Girl Talk is successful when Biggie and Elton are dueting, otherwise it isn’t so special.

    This is like those early 90s/late 80s sampling trials. How recognizable is it? How much has changed? Bull. It’s either Fair Use, or it isn’t. Either we have Fair Use, or we don’t. We should have Fair Use. Long before art was actively recorded and disseminated, people built on the ideas of those who came before them, sometimes in very literal ways.

    This seems to be more a case of not liking the re-purposing, because it’s not “art”. If Negativland had used this “icon” on an album cover, would we be having this discussion?

    1. I think it all comes down to EXECUTION. If the works weren’t uninspired, copies lacking basic artistic craftsmanship and skill sets most freshmen entering into art school are required to demonstrate for acceptance, he might have a case. Otherwise these are just cash grabs utilizing (poorly execute) techniques that have recently proven highly lucrative and marketable (not necessarily mutually exclusive in the definition of art).

  18. Bonner sure seems to be splitting hairs here. I had the same thoughts while watching “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” The film mocks Guetta for many of the same sins committed by Fairey (mass production, pop culture shallowness, pilfered ideas.)

    There’s also some important context left out of this article. Fairey admitted to destroying and faking evidence in the dispute with AP, and may have committed perjury.

    This isn’t to mention Fairey’s long history of engaging in “referencing” that is nearly identical to Guetta’s. Here’s just a small sampling of instances.

    I’m not gonna weigh in on the the merits of a Fair Use argument in either Guetta’s or Fairey’s case (I’ve got my own fair use spoofs on my website), but I think the distinction Bonner is trying to draw here doesn’t convince.

  19. It’s hard to look at something like this impartially, for SB it involves people he’s close to, for those of us who don’t know these people personally, we have EXIT and past media helping shape our opinions of these people.

    I think this is fair use, and to say that it does not is directly going to erode fair use defenses further than they already are.

    If the photographer wins, it’s bad for other ‘street’ artists who make ‘better’ or more meaningful art that plays with iconic images.

    If he loses, it’s bad for those who have created the iconic pictures that are fodder for today’s artists.

  20. It’s somehow a relief to see MBW getting his comeuppance. It’s clear that there’s a move away from a strait documentary in ETTGS when Banksy tells MBW to start being a street artist, even though he apparently lacks both talent and a creative vision. That there are two 6 month gaps in the film indicates that there’s something else going on. What’s going on is that Banksy and Fairey are creating a character for Guetta to play out, then filming it for use in a documentary to compliment their own ingenious work. MBW clearly soulless copying contrast with Banksy and Fairey’s innovative and witty art. They probably didn’t expect MBW to be as popular and financially successful as he was, but the popularity of the film certainly did nothing to take away from that of Banksy and Fairey. If the works weren’t fair use, were their inclusion in the movie also cause for action? I hope not.

  21. When we find out that Banksy pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes to make a statement on the art world and the people that jump on the train, can the defense be that this is all satire. I just read an interview with Friedman on and he is 100% pro Shep – how could they just not work this out? Are they all (including you Bonner) in on trying to keep our interest in Mr. Braindrain for some jokey joke arty reason? That is a possibility. Look for a new rash of Brainwash events soon.

  22. These shenanigans remind me of Sherrie Levine’s 1981 exhibition, “After Walker Evans” where she photographed photographs of Walker Evans’. Who’s to say her photographs weren’t her own photographs, albeit of other photographs, but still in a way her own work?

  23. kind of ironic it’s a copyright suit over a photo of Run-DMC who got their start using samples of other music……

    1. in fact Run-DMC’s 1st two studio albums had NO SAMPLES and both sold in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, there third did contain samples, but they did not build their careers from other peoples samples.

  24. I usually come down on the side of “the law is crazy, steal what you want and don’t get caught” but I’d have to agree with the rightsholder nazis on this one. There is no recontexturalisation in this example of Guetta’s work, which is vital requirement for any artwork that uses visual references to stand on its own.

    In the case of Fairey’s work (I don’t care if he settled with the money-hungry fucks at AP – he just wanted to get on with life) the recontexturalisation is in the fact that, as metioned in the article, the original reference photograph was inconsequential to the message of his artwork. It was a picture of Clooney FFS! Obama just happened to be in the backdrop.

    In the case of the above-mentioned Banksy use of the pulp fiction imagery, his use is clearly unproblematic as Banksy not only changed the most metaphorically charged item depicted – the handguns – into one of the most comical items he possible could. Furthermore, Banksy went back and updated the original piece at least once, showing that he clearly isn’t super-precious about the imagery itself but merely using it as a vehicle to convey a message.

    Just look at this awesome link!

    If Guetta wanted to play it safe he could’ve gone for something which is hard to argue competes with the original work like this:

  25. i think hes not going to get away with the the black and white/monochrome vectorized image. if he sold that commercially in a gallery setting (as opposed to just random street tags) he might get sued real bad. the other exampls where he mixed it with other images he ll be alrite since its quite transformative.

    basically thats the main argument here, its a tiresome and long decide whether or not a work is transformative. some call it ridiculous, whats original whats not – it can all be very subjective.

    however another factor nobody mentioned yet…mister brainwash might turnaround and say he didn’t actually do it but one of his employees (the guys of craigslist u see in the banksy documentary). just because that guy wil have less to lose in terms of money (most likely) then he can pay him off outside court…case shut.

  26. Photography was the first death blow to art, computers are a brutal elbow drop on the corpse.

    Art hasn’t had much to say that can be considered original for a long time, shoulders of giants, and all that. One can appreciate the talent of the artist, but to think that what they’re producing is in any way original is kind of silly.

    How this can or should relate to artists being able to earn a living from their work I’m not sure.

  27. I wonder if dialing back our public perception of what “talent” seems to be these days might solve some of these issues before they reach a stage exemplified in this article?
    By this, I mean a particular, practiced skill that rises above merely copying, tracing, blowing up, opaque projecting, etc. to achieve a finished product (in reach of a certain degree of realism where the subject matter is easily and immediately recognizable). Put simply, I mean a return to “drawing from life”.

    In journalistic, literary, and academic circles, it’s frowned upon to copy or reproduce without proper credit. They call it plagiarism. However, (IMHO) most state educational programs that still include art in the curriculum seem to start kids out with the notion that it’s perfectly fine to copy and trace from photography without any hint of shame for engaging in the practice. This seems to reinforce the idea that if you’re not good enough, faking it (tracing, opaque projection, etc.) – instead of practicing harder – is perfectly acceptable.

    And yes, I am all for knocking down some of the Old Masters a few pegs in the history books if the Hockney-Falco thesis proved to be correct.

    1. Your first word was you practicing the art of mimicry. Language itself is one big copy. Well, part copy and part unique expression. But try as you might, you can’t really get away from the copy part. Unless you live by yourself and invent your own language.

      Also, there have been many changes in the world and the world of art, to put it mildly. I bet we can think of some changes in our life times that have lead artists to different approaches to being and working, to different fields of inquiry and experimentation. Even painters and visual artists want to get in on the territory of the actors and performance artists and mind fuckers of that ilk.

      1. Yes, even the act of drawing or painting from life is to copy…albeit with a certain level of skill above mere tracing, and using one’s learned design skills (tools and rules, like language utilizes) to change and create a more harmonious/chaotic effect.
        However, too many parents look on their child’s prize-winning and slavish copy of a photo in the school art competition with pride, but would hit the roof if they knew the same child plagiarized his/her short story in the creative writing competition. The sad part is that this attitude extends even further into the commerce of what is considered these days as high art.

        I take no issue with newer concepts of art/appropriation that have been utilized in the last century (collage, video installations, etc.), but still think there are boundaries that are being crossed these days where the originator of an idea or design is not getting deserved credit. I’m no Art Renewal Center cultist, but also think that there are great wrongs being perpetrated in contemporary art, and wish the two sides could come together on what constitutes hard work and discipline, and what constitutes a cop-out/cheat. Bullshit can be a craft, but it should not be an art.

  28. This is going to be kind of rambling and incoherent, but here goes…Larry King Style…

    It seems funny to me that something “Iconic” must be credited while something not “Iconic” is undeserving of such credit. It seems wrong to afford extra rights to some images above others…

    It also seems to me that when something uncool is appropriated for something cool (like many things championed on boingboing), it is seen as ok and when something cool is appropriated for something uncool (like this Run-DMC image, that Minor Threat image, etc) it’s a problem. I’d argue that this circuit has to go both ways, for better or worse.

    “Friedman is arguing that Guetta used, without credit or permission, his iconic photo of Run DMC on invitations, artworks, merchandise and promotional materials.”

    This list is too vague for us to really make sense of what’s at stake. Invitations and promotional materials? Artworks? Were they in additions? Single pieces of work? What kind of merchandise? How much of it?

  29. Guetta,banal as he is is part of a continuum of well-established contemporary art practice.If what he’s done is illegal then the floodgates are open-Warhol,Damian Hirst,Richard Prince,Jeff Koons,etc.etc.The list of artists who use appropriation in their work is long.After Duchamp,context has become the crucial signifier.Is this agood or a bad thing-you tell me?

    1. I agree… Continuum of well-established contemporary art practice and all that. But I don’t think it matters much if it’s good or bad.

      Mimicry, copying, appropriation is a beautiful and basic human behavior. Much of behavior and much of learning is a blend of mimicry and uniqueness. In some sense mimicry/copy/appropriation lead to deep understanding, to connection, community, and paradoxically can lead to personal identity.

      Reception and Expression are a yin yang thing. To mimic can be a a deep way to receive.

      Culturally, we tend to favor expression over reception. Male over female.

      Some bristle at the notion of limitations on copying behavior– the deep sense of understanding and connection that can come out of appropriation is beautiful, and can, paradoxically, lead to more profound unique expression.

      So, metaphorically, when strong cultural voices commit to positions limiting said behavior, the animal mimicry side of the self wants to tell those limiters to fuck off.

      1. Culturally, we tend to favor expression over reception. Male over female.

        Apparently I know very abnormal women.

  30. Personally,I’m hypothetically in favour of unlimited free use – with the usual don’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre caveat.

  31. If MBW had taken the image, changed it drastically and posted it as graffitti art on the street that is one thing.
    BUT if he took the image, altered it minimally and sold it as art in a gallery for many $$ – nah – Glen E Freidman has a right to be mad.

  32. Hate to break it to everyone, but Thierry Guetta IS Banksy. Right in front of all of you – in plain sight. He did such a great job that nobody even seems to even notice.

  33. Well, I don’t know if it is a hoax or not, but “using” a Frenchman character for the purpose of further spin through the language is just brilliant: “Park amusement – Art amusement”, “It was behind my eX-pec-tation”. Oh, and the rabbit-or-turtle choice as the moral of the story is again, right on.

  34. I would say that the fact that these ‘collaborators’ have worked together and could be called ‘friends’ Is extremely suspicious. ‘When’ friedman is successful he will ultimately have set a precedent that will lead to at least 99% of MBW’s work to become worthless and even ‘ilegal’. Banksy’s ultimate joke.

    1. Well it would certainly be interesting if Bansky and others helped to create MBW to see if derivative art could be financially successful. But what a joke if true. On the one hand MBW made a financial killing which after the Friedman judgment may disappear since so many other copyright holders will then sue.

      Maybe the financial success of MBW’s show really did surprise Bansky – as it seemed at the end of the film. I wonder if Guetta was in on the joke ?

  35. Mr. brain wash, just simply put destroyed the essence of street art.

    anyone can take a printer and use photo shop software and mess with the pictures and call it art.

  36. Don’t feel bad, I am being sued for using a picture of my OWN eyes on my OWN website, how does that work!

  37. I have an opinion on this but it’s really just sampled and copied from everybody else’s:
    “Life is Beautiful”.

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