Revenge is a dish best served non-fungible
Cast your mind back to last year, when model Emily Ratajkowski published a widely read essay in The Cut. The article detailed her experience with the artist Richard Prince, who had taken one of her Instagram photos, a nude, and printed it on a large canvas, priced at $90,000 – all without her permission.
Now, in an effort to reclaim the useage of her likeness, Emily Ratajkowski is selling a NFT – or nonfungible token – of herself standing in front of said artwork, which Prince originally released in 2014 as part of his New Portraits series.
Titled Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution, the NFT shows Ratajkowski, photographed in her New York apartment, posing in front of the Richard Prince painting.
In her The Cut essay, Ratajkowski explains how she had come across Prince’s painting of her by chance at the Gagosian gallery. When she tried to buy the piece, she was told that a Gagosian employee had already bought it for himself.
After contacting Prince’s studio directly, she was able to obtain a second ‘Instagram painting’ of herself, featuring a photo from her first appearance in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
Despite being paid $150 for the shoot and a “couple grand” when the issue was published, Ratajkowski and her boyfriend at the time bought the painting for $81,000. When they broke up, she paid her ex $10,000 for a smaller “study” that Prince’s studio had given her.
Speaking to the New York Times, she explained how the sale was a way for her to reclaim “authority” over her own image. “As somebody who has built a career off of sharing my image, so many times – even though that’s my livelihood – it’s taken from me and then somebody else profits off of it,” she said.
The NFT sale means that every time her token is resold, Ratajkowski will receive an undisclosed cut.
“The digital terrain should be a place where women can share their likeness as they choose, controlling the usage of their image and receiving whatever potential capital attached. Instead, the internet has more frequently served as a space where others exploit and distribute image,” she wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this week, it was announced that a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting would be sold as a NFT, offering the buyer the chance to destroy the original artwork so that the NFT is the “only remaining form”.
Yesterday, the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat pulled the plug on the sale, however, stopping the sale on the grounds that the seller does not in fact own the license or rights to the artwork. “The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat owns the copyright in the artwork referenced,” licensing agent David Stark tells The Art Newspaper. “No license or rights were conveyed to the seller and the NFT has subsequently been removed from sale.”
The digital terrain should be a place where women can share their likeness as they choose, controlling the usage of their image and receiving whatever potential capital attached. Instead, the internet has more frequently served as a space where others exploit and distribute image— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) April 23, 2021