A recent video posted to Vimeo, and tweeted by Richard Prince, appears to show the artist burning one of his “Canal Zone” paintings, the subjects of a high-profile copyright infringement lawsuit brought against Mr. Prince by the photographer Patrick Cariou.
The video appears to have been shot before the case escalated as it begins with a shot of the painting, Graduation (2008), with a voice-over by Mr. Prince saying, “I even burned one of the paintings just to show the guy what I’m prepared to do. If he’s really serious about this lawsuit, which, unfortunately, he is.”
The initial case was decided in favor of Mr. Cariou, and stipulated that the 30 infringing works had to be destroyed. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned that decision, sending just five artworks—Graduation among them—back to a lower court for further review.
“To them it represents money,” Mr. Prince says in the video’s second scene, in which he sets the painting in a bank of snow. “So what I’m prepared to do is destroy it.”
“Prepared to do,” may be a key turn of phrase. Mr. Prince does in fact coat the painting with a flammable liquid then sets fire to it, declaring, once it’s blackened and destroyed, “It’s graduated.” But the burnt painting seems a little small, and may be a reproduction. Court documents say the real Graduation is 73 inches by 52 inches and the one in the video seems shorter than Mr. Prince. The artist also retweeted a response to the video from user @visitordesign: “i have a spare of this painting if anybody needs it.”
Moreover Georgina Adam at the Financial Times has reported that Larry Gagosian owns at least one of the disputed paintings. You can’t imagine he’d be too happy about Mr. Prince burning the piece, if he owns it.
The video was posted three weeks ago to the Vimeo account of video editor Ed Yonaitis. It is titled “Wild History / Burning Painting Excerpt” and seems to be part of a longer documentary project. Watch the video for yourself here. The password is “Prince.”
Update 6/10 Looks like the video’s been made private.