Richard Prince Settled His New Portraits Copyright Lawsuits

The copyright infringement lawsuits over Richard Prince’s New Portraits works were set to begin on Monday. Yesterday, though, the judge accepted mediated settlements between the parties, and the cases are over.

Exhibit 7: Not Willfully Infringing Billboard, now ENJOINED, from Graham v Prince, as seen on the West Side Highway and in the book, obv

According to the settlements, Prince will pay Donald Graham and Eric McNatt each “damages” equal to “five times the sale price” of the New Portrait that included their photographs. For Graham, that is Portrait of Rastajay92, which sold to Larry Gagosian for $38,000. For McNatt, that is Portrait of Kim Gordon, which sold at Blum & Poe Tokyo for $90,000. Prince, Blum & Poe, and Gagosian and his gallery are all also enjoined from “reproducing, modifying, preparing
derivative works from, displaying publicly, selling, offering to sell, or otherwise distributing” either phototographers’ original images, the New Portraits incorporating them, the respective exhibition catalogues and, in Graham’s case, the West Side Highway billboard showing a wonky iPhone installation shot of Prince’s New Portraits exhibition at Gagosian. Both settlements also include “all costs incurred.”

The settlement was reported in The Art Newspaper and Courthouse News as Prince being found “guilty” of infringing the photographers’ copyrights. And it is absolutely the case that the settlements include judgment “entered in favor of the plaintiff[s] and against the defendants for the claims asserted against them” in the complaints, which is copyright infringement.

Yet Marion Maneker, the hardest-working man in the art lawsuit business, quotes folks from Prince’s legal team saying that, “Mr Prince made no admission of willful copyright infringement,” and “did not pay legal fees for either party’s lawyers.” Which sounded like a contradiction, and both these claims can’t be true, until I was writing this post.

“This settlement allows Richard and all of the artists to move forward with their practices,” they told Maneker. Which, ironically, echoes something Prince expressed in his 2018 deposition for the cases: a desire to move on and not think about the New Portraits series again. And even though it was reflective of and inextricable from many, many facets of his practice over the years, he did not add.

Update: the NYT account seems to be clearer about the parties’ interpretations of the settlement.