Artists Who Copy and Copying in the Art world

Artists Who Copy and Copying in the Art world

Copying in the artworld – Influence and inspiration over theft

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but even copying in the art world is a painful thing. But what if you’ve spent half of your life researching, studying and perfecting, a unique style of artwork. You’ve honed and crafted your practice over hundreds of hours to create something special that your audience appreciates and is challenged by. You’ve created a name for yourself based on this style being attached to you as your life’s work. Then one day, an admirer of your artwork, shall we say? Creates a series of pieces that… basically, rip off your style… and their audience loves it.

Does the original artist have the right to voice their opinion that this “newer artist” has “stolen their idea” or “used their idea”? What would you do in that situation? And if they do get a counter-argument published in a top art journal, would this have any effect on the popularity of the newer artist’s exhibition or their practice? Should the gallery, organisation or buyers of the newer artist’s work stop supporting them and ask for their investments back?


Can anybody own their medium?

It’s an interesting thought as Andy Warhol said “I want everybody to think alike. I think everybody should be a machine.”, to a certain extent that is true. As artists, we are always absorbing and rendering inspiration and ideas from different sources and spitting them out as finished things. Even our experiences of reading, taking ideas from an author’s imagery could be a theft of the author’s intellectual property also.  The fact that you work in a favoured medium in the first place could suggest that you copied that idea from the people that introduced it to you and they, took it from others and so on…


You’re always influenced by others

Even just walking down the street will see you take on a slight influence from everything you see, feel and do. The only difference is that you wouldn’t really become so influenced by someone in the street that you follow them into the corner shop and fill your basket with the same bread, cat food, milk and crisps as they do… A suggestion would be if there’s an artist that you feel has “used your idea” try reaching out to them and ask what their influences were on their work, and how they got to the point they are at now. Perhaps it’s a happy coincidence of combining two people’s work that looks like yours? Assuming that it isn’t something personal, by which case, talk to them, your peers, your colleagues in art for advice…


Create more artwork

Another thought of mine is, if people are seeming to reproduce your work, maybe this is the time to experiment with a new direction, style or medium. Take some time to look at new artists, read or explore new influences and leave them all behind. Take it as an opportunity.

Other thoughts:

When can you call yourself an artist

Things you hear when you’re an artist

Eco-friendly art

Have you ever been copied or had your ideas stolen in the art world or anywhere else? Let me know your story in the comments below…

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