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Appropriation Art

Sherrie Levine
Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), 1991
Cast bronze
35.6 x 36.8 x 63.5 cm (14 x 14.5 x 25 in.)
© Sherrie Levine
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

Appropriation in contemporary art involves the re-contextualization of existing images or objects, both within and outside of art history, into a new artwork. This movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s and has been a significant part of contemporary art ever since. One of the key features of appropriation art is its focus on challenging traditional notions of authorship and originality.

Well-known for appropriation art, Sherrie Levine reproduced iconic artworks by male artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Edward Weston, and Walker Evans in her early works, defying the idea of the original piece and the role of the artist as a creator. Levine's work also highlights the gendered power dynamics at play in the art world and in broader society. Another artist who works with appropriation isVik Muniz, which often involves recreating famous paintings or photographs using unconventional materials, such as chocolate syrup or garbage. Muniz's work provokes a rethinking of what constitutes art and highlights the ways in which cultural values and meanings can be manipulated and transformed.

Numerous exhibitions have examined appropriation art, including The Pictures Generation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009. This exhibition focused on a group of artists from the 1970s and 1980s who used appropriation as a primary tool in their practice. Amongst others, the exhibition featured works by Cindy Sherman, whose Untitled Film Stills (1977-1980) series comprised appropriated images from Hollywood films to explore gender roles and identity, and Richard Prince, whose Cowboys series used found images from Marlboro cigarette advertisements to critique the romanticized image of the American West.

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy), 1989
Chromogenic print
127 x 177.8 cm (50 x 70 in.)
© Richard Prince
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Related categories

Painting

Photography

Transformation

Film/Video Art

Image Production/Reproduction/Transformation

Media Study

(Inspired by) Art History

Searching for Identity

Originality

Found Objects

Art of the 1970s

Digital Print

Art of the 1960s

Exhibitions in New York