The art of copying and appropriation

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Good artists copy, great artists steal cites Jones as he claims that there is nothing new under the sun as the same applies to art as many artists result to copying already developed materials. The act of copying or stealing cannot be categorized to favor a certain group of artists as even established artists copy from existing developed art pieces. The existence of copying has had numerous functions and advantages to the modern day art as the generational gap is reduced as artists copy from historical art; the generation gap refers to the originality difference between modern day and historical contemporary artists.  In an argument by Bosker the author cites that don’t art academics study any history earlier than this before they do a PhD on the Fluxus movement? Because any acquaintance with the old masters reveals that art has always been an exchange of ideas in which influence is not just omnipresent but proudly accepted. The same argument is shared by Buchloh who is keen to assert that the consumers or audience of art are always keen to appreciate great creativity regardless of originality; this could be evidenced by the huge audience for copied materials from music, screen works and paintings. The paper recognizes the importance and function of art as well cite artists that have used copying in their works.

Indeed, many of the most vibrant aspects of contemporary culture indicate an obsession with the act of copying and the production of copies, and it seems that we find real insight into what human beings and the universe are like through thinking about how and what we copy. Technology has only multiplied the possibilities; musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate them through allusion; today, an endless, gloriously impure, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of music.

In the modern century copying has become a major part of art as artists and other steal art which is easily accessed on the extensive internet sources. Increasing technology has increased the volume of plagiarized or copied pieces of art. Vast Internet access has also increased the platforms on which artists share their work which also exposes them to copy cats.

In essence, copying or plagiarizing art is not as criminal as other offenses may be; this is based on that copying may infringe intellectual property rights to only a certain extent. In an argument by Perenyi intellectual property rights in art may not be existent in art as they cannot be recognized in emulated work; in essence art has not real owner as even plagiarizing artists have some sense of originality in that they are able to create their own versions of coped materials. For this reason, intellectual rights infringement cannot be established; its can only be defined as a crime in situations where the original art piece is stolen or edited from the original design.

Marinas Abramovic has been criticized from copying in her recent performance; critics insist Abramović should acknowledge a previous work by the American artist Mary Ellen Carroll, which they say has a prior claim to her chosen theme. In a surreal twist that theme happens to be “nothing”. Another example of an artist who greatly used copying is the great Picasso who has occasionally used art already developed by other artists; Picasso copies or develops his own pieces from artists who have less fame or known. From his actions he is able to make the art piece more famous as well the unknown artists. Evans also argues that copying from little known artists functions as a way to increase the popularity of the hidden wealth in contemporary art as well allow unknown artists to share the same appreciation of already established artists. In regards to music, many artists have copied from already done pieces but incorporate changes; copied music uses words or sounds from original pieces especially from ancient music pieces.

In relation to reducing the generational gap, Jones is of the assumption that copying allows for people to appreciate art from other generations. For instance, historical art pieces as the Mona Lisa could not have been famous today if wasn’t for the fact that emerging artists have used the component of the piece to create other forms of the Mona Lisa; this allows for art lovers from different generations to enjoy the piece regardless of the originality of the available pieces.

In conclusion, it is difficult to develop original art pieces without even borrowing silent features from already developed pieces. For this reason, audiences should be able to appreciate and the creativity behind original creations, and the efforts behind revising or improving already developed art work.


The development of my work is based on sources that tend to support copying and appropriation. The works cited support copying with the assumption that copying is almost a mandatory aspect of art and even major artist have thrived from developing art pieces from borrowed material. In essence, art is majorly about enjoying the artistic point of view rather than judging the originality of certain pieces of art. For this reason, modern day contemporary artists have embraced copying as an art itself as they use already developed art to create their own versions, from which quality is still evident and appreciated.

The functions and importance of art have also been cited in the paper. The most important aspect remain that by copying art different generations are able to appreciate art pieces regardless of their age based on their original piece. By copying art materials are passed on from generation to another which increases the reach of art within the society. For instance, Mona Lisa has been successfully passed from one generation to another regardless of the time it was originally created. Without copying modern day art lover would not have the opportunity to enjoy the art work.

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  1. Alfrey, Penelope. “Petrarch’s Apes: Originality, Plagiarism and Copyright Principles within Visual Culture”. MIT Communications Forum. 2000. Print.
  2. Boon, Marcus. In Praise of Copying. London: Harvard University Press. 2010. Print.
  3. Bosker, Bianca. Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China (Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia’s Architecture). University of Hawaii Press. 2013. Print. PDF.
  4. Buchloh, Benjamin. Allegorical procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art. Boston: MIT Press. Pdf.
  5. Callahan, Mark. Faking it in Shenzen the Pleasures and Dangers of Mimesis. October, 2009. < _Speak_Out_Fakes.htm>
  6. Dana Arnold and Margaret Iverson. Art and Thought. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2003. Print.
  7. Dunleavy, David. ‘The irony of art in a culture of appropriation’. Dec 6, 2007 Available at: <>
  8. Evans, David. Appropriation: Documents of contemporary art. London: Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press. 2009. Press.
  9. Helen Charman and Michaela Ross, ‘Contemporary Art and the Role of Interpretation’. Web. accessed 18 February 2017. <>
  10. Jones, Jonathan. Contemporary art isn’t original-even copying has been done before. We. 3oth May, 2014. <>
  11. Jones, Malcolm. There is Nothing Wrong, and a lot that’s Right about copying. Web. Jan 2014. <>
  12. Kennedy, Randy. ‘If the Copy Is an Artwork, Then What’s the Original?. Web. Dec 6, 2007. <>
  13. Kennedy, Randy. Court Rules in Artist’s Favor. Web. April 25, 2013. <>
  14. Lynch, Jack. The Perfectly Acceptable Practice of Literary Theft: Plagiarism, Copyright, and the Eighteenth Century, in Colonial Williamsburg: The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 24, 2003, (4): 51–54.
  15. Margot, Lovejoy. Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. London: Routledge 2004. Print.
  16. Perenyi, Ken. Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger. New York: Pegasus Books. 2012. Print.
  17. Rowe, Hayley. Appropriation in Contemporary Art. Web. 2011. <>
  18. Sampling and Appropriation. Web. Accessed on 18 Feb, 2017. <>
  19. Shiner, Larry. The Invention of Art: A Cultural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.
  20. What is the Difference between Appropriation and Plagiarism? Web. Aug 6, 2010. <>
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