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The Controversial Artist Behind The Instagram Portraits You've Seen Everywhere

A collaboration between Richard Prince, Kate Moss and her boyfriend Nikolai Von Bismarck has seen Instagram imagery take centre stage.

Moss is boss. 

There's something perennially mesmerising about Kate Moss.

For someone who was plucked from obscurity at a mere 14, the trademark Moss gaze has neither waned nor diluted over her 30-year career but has merely grown further elusive and elegant over time. 

Richard Prince – artist and appropriation aficionado – has elevated Instagram to new and lofty heights (albeit, controversially) to showcase the social media platform in a way never before experienced. 

He does this by way of his “New Portraits” series, which involves reproducing enlarged versions of Instagram posts on canvas.

Moss was one of the first subjects of Prince’s inaugural series of Instagram paintings (you may have noticed them in Emrata's latest grid post), which were exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in New York in September 2014.

“She didn’t know I was doing it, which was part of the attraction,” he explains to Derek Blasberg for W Magazine

“Usually, when you do a portrait of someone they’re right in front of you. But now you don’t have to come and sit for me.”

The Polaroids were taken by Moss' partner of four years Nikolai Von Bismarck. The British-German photographer posted the imagery to his personal Instagram, soonafter to be repurposed by W

Although the show, which opened in October, is the first museum exhibition of this body of work, his Instagram paintings have made their fair share of headlines by way of subjects speaking rather unfavourably about the project. 

“Imagine my surprise when I saw Richard Prince tweet a 6ft inkjet printed picture of a screenshot of an Instagram post of mine,” Zoë Ligon (@thongria) writes, “hanging up in my hometown of Detroit at MOCAD. I didn’t consent to my face hanging in this art gallery.”

Alongside her statement is Richard Prince’s tweet (posted October 8) showing the artwork in question, a screenshot of a selfie posted to her Instagram with a caption discussing “sexual freedom, which inherently includes matters of class, race, gender and ability”. 

A self-described “survivor of childhood sexual abuse”, she also says: “Part of the reason I take ‘sexy selfies’ is because I am reclaiming my own sexualized image.”

One work in the series—featuring Ivanka Trump—also became the form of an unusual political protest by the artist in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when he reportedly returned his fee to Trump, who had commissioned the piece, and disavowed the work via Twitter, writing, “This is not my work. I did not make it. I deny. I denounce. This fake art.”

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