Appropriation (art)

Appropriation (art)

To appropriate something involves taking possession of it. In the visual arts, the term "appropriation" often refers to the use of borrowed elements in the creation of new work. The borrowed elements may include images, forms or styles from art history or from popular culture, or materials and techniques from non-art contexts. Since the 1980s the term has also referred more specifically to quoting the work of another artist to create a new work. The new work does not actually alter the original per se; the new work uses the original to create a new work. In most cases the original remains accessible as the original, without change.


Aspects of appropriation appear in all areas of visual art history if one considers the basic act of making art as the borrowing of images or concepts from the surrounding world and re-interpreting them as art. For example, some might classify Leonardo da Vinci as an "appropriation" artist, because he used recombinant methods of appropriation, borrowing from sources as diverse as biology, mathematics, engineering and art, and then synthesizing them into inventions and artworks.

Some art historians regard Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque as the first modern artists to appropriate items 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.

Five years later, in 1917, Marcel Duchamp introduced the idea of the readymade. That year he entered "s","Fact|date=February 2007 however, this has never been substantiated.

The Dada movement (including Duchamp as an associate) continued with the appropriation of everyday objects, but their appropriation did not attempt to elevate the "low" to "high" art status, rather it produced art in which chance and randomness formed the basis of creation. Dada artists included Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Jean Arp, Hans Richter, Richard Huelsenbeck, Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, and Francis Picabia. A reaction to oppressive intellectual rigidity in both art and everyday society, 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 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. Johns also appropriated symbolic images such as the American flag or the "target" symbol 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, engaged in politics and public speaking, and produced sculptural works featuring unconventional materials. The group even appropriated the postal system in developing mail art. The performances sought to elevate the banal by appropriating it as "art" and dissembling the high culture of serious music.

Along with artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, 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.

The term "appropriation art" came into 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".

During the 1970s and 1980s Richard Prince re-photographed advertisements such as for Marlboro cigarettes or photo-journalism shots. Prince's work spoke to issues of materialism and the idea of spectacle over lived experience. His work takes anonymous and ubiquitous cigarette billboard advertising campaigns, elevates the status and focusses our gaze on the images. The viewer questions the concept of masculinity portrayed in these heroic billboards and their relationship to the advertising campaign.

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, 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 and Damien Hirst.

Artists working today increasingly incorporate and quote from both art and non-art elements. For example, Cory Arcangel incorporates aspects of cultural nostalgia through re-working vintage video games and computer software. Other contemporary appropriation artists include the Chapman brothers, Benjamin Edwards, Joy Garnett, Nikki S. Lee, Paul Pfeiffer, Pierre Huyghe, Rico Gatson and Stephanie Sailor.

Appropriation art and copyrights

The nature of appropriation art, the borrowing of elements for new work, has resulted in contentious copyright issues which reflects more restrictive copyright legislation. 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. Many countries are following the U.S lead toward more restrictive copyright, which risks making this art practice difficult if not illegal. Canada is currently involved in debating copyright with extraordinary public and artist reaction. []

Andy Warhol faced a series of law-suits 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. Warhol had covered the walls of Leo Castelli's New York gallery in 1964 with the silk-screened reproductions of Caulfield's photograph. After seeing a poster of his work in a bookstore, Caulfield claimed ownership of the image and while Warhol was the author of the successful silk screens, he settled out of court, giving Caulfield a royalty for future use of the image as well as two of the paintings.

On the other hand, Warhol's famous Campbell's Soup Cans are generally held to be non-infringing, 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 Gilsonas quoted in Grant,Daniel, "The Business of Being an Artist" (New York: Allworth Press, 1996), p. 142] .

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 won one for "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 court filing, Koons' lawyer, John Koegel, said that "Niagara" is "an entirely new artistic work... that comments on and celebrates society's appetites and indulgences, as reflected in and encouraged by a ubiquitous barrage of advertising and promotional images of food, entertainment, fashion and beauty."

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 esthetics 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 women'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 despite the fact that he transformed the subject. 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.

Artists using Appropriation

*Ghada Amer
*J. Tobias Anderson
*Cory Arcangel
*Martin Arnold
*Gordon Bennett
*Mike Bidlo
*Pierre Bismuth
*Georges Braque
*Glenn Brown
*Reginald Case
*Jake and Dinos Chapman
*Joseph Cornell
* Mark Divo
*Marcel Duchamp
*Benjamin Edwards
*Max Ernst
*Shepard Fairey
*Rico Gatson
*Joy Garnett
*Leon Golub
*Douglas Gordon
*Hans Haacke
*Damien Hirst
*Pierre Huyghe
*Jasper Johns
*Deborah Kass
*Karen Kilimnik
*Jeff Koons
*Joseph Kosuth
*Barbara Kruger
*Matthieu Laurette
*Louise Lawler
*Lennie Lee
*Nikki s. lee
*Sherrie Levine
*Roy Lichtenstein
*Damian Loeb
*Robert Longo
*Norm Magnusson
*Miltos Manetas
*Christian Marclay
*John McHale
*Aleksandra Mir
*Joan Miró
*Yasumasa Morimura
*Malcolm Morley
*Vik Muniz
*Claes Oldenburg
*Meret Oppenheim
*Tom Phillips
*Pablo Picasso
*Bern Porter
*Rick Prelinger
*Richard Prince
*Robert Rauschenberg
*Graham Rawle
*Gerhard Richter
*Thomas Ruff
*Stephanie Sailor
*Rob Scholte
*David Salle
*Peter Saville
*Kurt Schwitters
*Cindy Sherman
*Cornelia Sollfrank []
*Nancy Spero
*Elaine Sturtevant
*Philip Taaffe
*Kelley Walker
*Andy Warhol
*Thomas Gillett

ee also

*Art intervention
*Found art
*Classificatory disputes about art
*Conceptual art
*Fair use
*Scratch Video
*Postmodern art


External links

* [ Appropriation Art Coalition-Canada]
* [ Blanche v. Koons Decision (August 2005)]
* [ Koons Wins Landmark Copyright Lawsuit] 1/2006
* [ Blanch v. Koons, 05-6433-cv] 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; decided October 26, 2006
* [ Artist Koons' 'Transformative' Use of Photo Affirmed by 2nd Circuit] Koons wins appeal (2006); article on
* [ Fair Use]
* [ Fair Use Network]
* [ Creative Commons]
* [ Free Culture] an international student movement
* [ The New York Institute for the Humanities Comedies of Fair U$e conference (]
* [ Open Source Culture: Intellectual Property, Technology, and the Arts, Columbia Digital Media Center lecture series]
* [ Public Domain]
* [ Sherri Levine Interview]
* [ Duchamp]
* [ Lichtenstein]
* [ Warhol]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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