Richard Prince's Instagram Exhibit – But Is It Art?

The Internet has created a entirely new cultural profession: the curator. This individual, tasked with going through the endless feed of content on the web and highlighting what's worthy, has become just as vital as the creator. Controversial artist Richard Prince is the newest curator who's being celebrated in a way that used to be reserved for artists, with a gallery exhibit featuring inkjet photographs taken by someone else.

Prince, whom The New Yorker called the "cynosure of appropriation," spent hours trolling Instagram to find 38 selfies that adhere to his aesthetic: young, vulnerable women caught in the act of self-imposed sexual exploitation and sabotage. A few of the subjects are high-profile like Pamela Anderson, Kate Moss and Sky Ferreira. Most are strangers, some are close friends.

The New Portraits exhibit, currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue, questions the notions of privacy, copyright and appropriation in a new era of social networks. Vulture explained Prince's process in "creating" these images was as followed:

Prince finds an image he likes, comments on it, makes a screen-grab with his iPhone, and sends the file — via email — to an assistant. From here, the file is cropped, printed as is, stretched, and presto: It's art. Or stuff that's driving others crazy for a variety of reasons.

The photos are gorgeous, despite the fact that the low-quality digital images have been magnified to reveal the pixels, but can it be considered art? The New Yorker stated its definitive opinion:

Of course it’s art, though by a well-worn Warholian formula: the subjective objectified and the ephemeral iconized, in forms that appear to insult but actually conserve conventions of fine art.

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