Monday, October 31, 2011

Richard Prince Testifies He Lied to the Press & He Bought the Rights to Use a Notorious Photograph of Brooke Shields

Richard Prince
A couple of chinks in Richard Prince’s versions of truth are emerging from documents filed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on October 26, in addition to his having been found liable last March for infringing photographer Patrick Cariou’s copyright.  

If Prince’s sworn statements can be believed, he sometimes lied to the press, and the outlaw persona he’s peddling as an artist who just takes whatever image he wants can’t always be trusted. 

In his October 2009 deposition in the case of  Cariou v. Prince, which is currently on appeal, Prince was asked about various statements he had made to the press.  Some of those statements, he testified, weren’t true, although he preferred to describe his lying as being “creative.”  

"I Made That Up"
Here’s an example.  The questioner is Cariou’s attorney, Dan Brooks.  Hayes is Prince’s attorney, Steven Hayes.  Bart is Hollis Gonerka Bart, the attorney for co-infringers Larry Gagosian and the Gagosian Gallery.

Q.  Do you have your own airplane?

A.  No.

Q.  You’re taking flying lessons though, right?

A.  No, I made that up.

Q.  Okay.  All right, you said –

A.  I make – I say a lot of things –

Q.  That aren’t true?

A.  That aren’t – well, no.  It’s more about – it depends upon the interviewer.  I try to be creative, let’s put it that way.

Q.  Okay.  So when you said you were taking flying lessons in your own airplane, that was not true?

A.  I was being creative.

Q.  Which means it wasn’t true?

Mr. Hayes:  Objection to the form of the question.  It’s been asked and answered.

A.  I would leave that up to the audience.  I mean I don’t want to tell – I don’t want to say whether or not – I might – I might be flying, taking flying lessons.  I don’t see the relevance of that.

Q.  That’s fine.  But you understand you’re under oath right now?

A.  Oh.

Q.  Do you understand that?

A.  Yes.

. . .

Ms. Bart:  He certainly was sworn in at the beginning to tell the truth –

Mr. Brooks:  I understand.

Ms. Bart:  -- and he agreed to do that.

Mr. Brooks:  Hopefully that’s what we’ll get.

Prince was also asked about the accuracy of a December 2007 report by Randy Kennedy in the New York Times that “Mr. Prince has spoken of receiving threats, some legal and some more physical, from his unsuspecting lenders.” 

Q.  Now, is it true that you starting receiving legal threats at some point?

A.  No, that’s probably something that I just made up.

Paying the Price

Prince has cultivated a reputation as an outlaw who takes whatever image he wants without asking anyone’s permission or paying any fees to the copyright owner.  It turns out that reputation is not wholly accurate, at least according to his deposition testimony.

Prince's "Spiritual America"
One of his most notorious works – it was pulled from a 2009 exhibition at the Tate because it could possibly violate obscenity laws -- is his photograph of Garry Gross’s photo of a 10-year-old naked Brooke Shields in a steamy bathtub, made up like a woman in her sexual prime.  It has been reported that he paid Gross a $2000 out-of-court settlement.  

Prince, though, testified that he bought the rights to the image.  Is what he termed a “concession” in fact the price he was willing to pay to show the work at the Whitney Museum here in New York?

Here’s the testimony:

Q.  Did Garry Gross ever threaten to sue you?

A.  No, he never did.

Q.  Did you ever reach an out-of-court settlement with Garry Gross?

A.  No.

Q.  You’re positive? 

A.  I’m positive.

As far as I can tell, I’m positive.  I actually – in 1992 I guess that’s what they’re talking about, your last quote here (from the Times article) – I mean Mr. Kennedy is talking about a 1992 discussion at the Whitney, and I believe at that time I bought the rights to the image for $2000.

Q.  From Gary Gross?

A. Yes.

Q.  Because he threatened to sue you?

A.  No.  I was told by the Whitney that I – in order to exhibit that image I made a concession, or they advised me that it would probably be best that – and I believe I sort of reached out to him at the time.

Because up until then, that image that I rephotographed from that pamphlet that he had produced in 1983, I made one copy, an 8 x 10, and I gave it away.  And it wasn’t until 1992 that it came back into the limelight, and I think my attitude changed a bit and I was sort of willing to become more part of the process I suppose.

Prince produced the photograph in an edition of 10 with two artist proofs.  One of the ten was sold at auction in 2003 for $372,500.

Images pulled from the internet. 

Text Copyright Laura Gilbert 2011