In an attempt to reestablish “authority” over the use of her image, Emily Ratajkowski, model and writer, is casting an indelible token, or NFT, to be sold. priced at Christie’s on May 14th. The work will be titled “Acquisition of Myself: A Model for Redistribution.”
As Ms. Ratajkowski recorded in a widely read essay in The Cut magazine last fall, she was surprised to discover, in 2014, a nude photo of her hanging in the Chamber. display the Gagosian on Madison Avenue. As part of her “New Portraits” series, artist Richard Prince snapped one of her Instagram photos and printed it on a large, $ 90,000 canvas.
Ms. Ratajkowski tried to buy the piece of cloth but a Gagosian employee bought it for herself. However, after directly contacting the studio of Mr. Prince, she was able to get her own second “Instagram painting”, including one from her debut on Sports Illustrated’s. swimsuit problem. She was paid 150 dollars for the photo shoot, she wrote, and a “few thousand dollars” when the issue was published. She and her boyfriend at the time bought the work for $ 81,000; when they broke up, she paid her ex $ 10,000 for a smaller “research” that Mr.’s studio said. Prince gave her.
The image attached to the NFT is a digital composite showing Ms. Ratajkowski, taken in her New York apartment, posing in front of a painting of Richard Prince hanging in her Los Angeles home. (Again: the indelible code is the metadata associated with the image file, allowing the file to be bought or sold as an actual work of art.)
Instead of a cash-based currency, NFT is purchased with a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum, and transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain of the respective currency, acting like a ledger. Ms. Ratajkowski is using the OpenSea platform to add her NFT to the Ethereum blockchain, but her NFT will be sold in US dollars and the remittance will take place “off-chain,” a Christie’s spokesperson said. There are no stocks or starting prices on the product.
In March, after Beeple artist Beeple’s $ 69.3 million NFT sale at Christie’s, talented agencies began encouraging their celebrity clients to join the “take money” program. of the NFT, Ms. Ratajkowski said in an interview. Cryptocurrency brands and brokers reached out to her directly, she said, giving her 20% to 60% profit on an NFT with her image. “I had a bad feeling in my stomach about how to approach it,” she said, so she decided to develop her own project – according to another prominent model, Kate Moss.
As Ms. Ratajkowski browses through NFT markets such as OpenSea, Foundation and SuperRare, she comes across prominent smiley-face GIFs and 3-D rendering and thinks: “Why are they NFT? They don’t need to be NFT. “
Since an NFT talks less about the image itself and more about the concept of ownership over digital files, Ms. Ratajkowski realized that this medium could be an effective way to make claims. – by appropriating a photo of Mr. Prince.
“As someone who built a career out of sharing my image, so many times – even though it’s my livelihood – it’s taken away from me and then other people make a profit from it, “She said. Every time her NFT is sold, she gets an undisclosed cut. “For me, this digital marketplace is a way of conveying a specific idea that cannot exist in a different way.”
Mr. Prince, who did not respond to messages sent through Gagosian and his studio manager, has been using the work of other artists in his works since the 1980s and he has made a name for himself by shooting photos of existing photos. His work has long been controversial, and Ms. Ratajkowski was not the first to raise a problem with her Instagram “New Portrait” series of photographs.
In 2015, Selena Mooney, the founder of porn site SuicideGirls, sold a $ 90 copy of a work by Mr. Prince has one of her Instagram posts, with proceeds going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.
“If I have a nickel for every time someone uses our image without our permission in a commercial endeavor, I could spend $ 90,000 on art,” Ms. Mooney wrote on Instagram. Another subject, sex educator Zoë Ligon, told Artnet she felt “violated” when Mr. Prince used her selfie in 2019.
Mr. Prince has also been sued at least five times for piracy related to “New Portraits” series, The New York Times reported, including two high-profile lawsuits by two photographers Donald Graham and Submitted by Eric McNatt. Mr. McNatt said that Mr. Prince misused a photo of Kim Gordon that he took for Paper magazine. According to court documents, he was paid between 50 and 100 dollars for the shot.
Art critic Jerry Saltz, who called “New Portrait” the “trolling genius” in a 2014 review, has worked with Kenny Schachter, an artist and art enthusiast in the art world. to create an NFT about the disputed Kim Gordon image in early April. Mrs. Gordon called back and wrote that she wondered if Mr. McNatt would “sue you again?” on Mr. Schachter’s Instagram post.
Casey Reas, an artist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has been working in the NFTs for 5 years, notes that they may have a special appeal to content creators who are whose images are frequently reproduced beyond their control.
“With things in the physical, physical world, ownership is pretty obvious, but with digital files it’s always a blurred area,” he said. “NFT allows a person to have explicit, public ownership of a digital thing, such as an image or video.”
However, such media can still spread. “The job itself is not scarce,” said Mr. Reas. “That image can still spread over the internet, but ownership is something the NFT allows someone to claim.” Like a physical painting, the original artist retains the copyright; Unlike a physical painting, every time an NFT changes hands, the original artist receives royalties.
For Ms. Ratajkowski, there is another potential dividend: moral justice. She said that after her article was published, models began to contact each other to discuss “not only their images being used, but also their bodies being abused and used. for profit in a way they disagree, ”she said, a topic she explores in an upcoming essay collection,“ My Body, ”which Metropolitan Books plans to publish in October. adding, around the fashion, film and art world, young women are created to “feel like they don’t need to be paid well.”
And she said crypto experts warned her: “People are going to use your image in the NFT one way or another, so you can also create one.”