"Plagiarized" Chris Foss painting sells for $5.7m

The thing that boggles my mind is that price – or even a tenth that price – for what is basically an illustration, a book cover. Who the hell pays $5.7M for a random SF illustration like that? There are probably tens of thousands of better quality works floating around for $57,000 or less. Just go to any major SF con art show.

Of course it’s just my opinion: I’d say the original is dull and weakly composed but it’s not awful; however the Brown version seems to me to be garish and ugly.

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Ostensibly, they’re paying for the transformative context of the new work. They’re blown up to immense size, saturated, etc. The buyer brings his or her own context, too.

because it is a unique painting. the owner can show status .

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arty language isn’t considered context.

Did the auction house disclose that it was a copy of another work?

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Amusingly, I already “transformed” the image from the UK cover of The Stars Like Dust for Badass Space Dragon.

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why would they need to - buyer should research the item - like any other.

If you are spending that much money, you should know what you are buying.

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“Everyone” in the “arts” knows that this is Brown’s thing, but it looks like Sotheby’s might have been neglectful in its disclosures for this auction, helping to prime the imbroglio. “After Chris Foss” was definitely added at some point, though. I put “plagiarized” in quotes because it really isn’t: Brown discloses the relationship to the original.

The problem is that the differences are technically trivial, with the bulk of the alleged transformation taking place in the realm of context. Which is bullshit, because you could effect the same “transformation” by making mechanical reproductive tweaks to the original (size, saturation) and selling it at Sotheby’s with some arty bollocks.

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The tension between the two urges–one, to push works into the public domain more quickly, and, two, to make sure that works aren’t too faithfully copied (even if they would, under scheme one, be in the public domain)–is interesting to me, in part because I feel the same discomfort that I suspect you feel. Something about it feels wrong (maybe from the old moral-rights lizard brain), even though this kind of copying is one logical end result of my deep desire to see the public domain radically expanded.

It’s tough to articulate a principled distinction here. Brown seems to have done all an IP-rights-limiter could want: I understand he asks for permission and I understand he gives attribution to the original artist.

He’s certainly got me thinking hard about my reaction to the work, which I guess is one way of marking it as art, right?

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I’m not an art scholar, but isn’t that a description of Warhol did?

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How much does a pair of arty bollocks go for at Sotheby’s?

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Yes, ostensibly. Me, I think someone bought this as an investment hoping someone else will pay more for it later on.
Art? If you have to know that an obscure book cover was the original, then read the artists explanation for why he did it, and then take the artists word that its transformative because, after all, the original is completely unknown and its not part of the new work, then you’re really just taking it on faith that its art because the artist said it is.

This guy is an artist, a con artist.

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Most of Warhol’s changes have the virtue of being visible to the human eye.

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Depends. Are they suspended in formaldehyle?

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I’m not going to defend Warhol, but he put a can of soup on a frame, and a can of campbell’s soup is something that is known to just about everybody, the re-contextualization is obvious because the original is well known, and presented in a different context. framed in an art gallery vs in a shelf among other products in a store.
Here, he took a painting (which was the cover of a relatively obscure book) and presented it as a painting. I’ve read this book but I hadn’t seen this cover, I have no original context for the image. Now if he had taken the cover to Jurassic park which is iconic (It helps that its the same as the movie), and “re-contextualized it”, he’d probably have a hard time getting people to buy into it as a transformation of the original work.

Tachin1, that’s just one Warhol work. He also had series in which he used much more anonymous photographs of car wrecks.

You’re getting confused.

Those were arty bullocks.

As a near starving artist person, this just pisses me off. What the market decides is profitable just has no rhyme or reason.
How can Shephard Fairy can get his bits sued off by the AP but this guy can claim fair use? Not saying I don’t think Fairy was in the wrong, but watching the market cheerfully prop up this douche to the tune of FIVE MILLION DOLLARS…
I should have eaten breakfast before this. Gah!

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have you seen a Brown IRL?

you are getting a bit worked up about one painting…

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in the context of 1993, they shook up contemporary art.

they changed the game. I don’t rate most of his work though.

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