The Art Angle Podcast: How Britney Spears’s Image Inspired Millennial Artists

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Midnight Publishing Group News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.


I’m sure you’ve heard it: For the past few months, the U.S. news media has been following the saga of pop star Britney Spears and the unusual conservatorship arrangement that prevents her from controlling her own finances or life decisions, put in place more than a decade ago after a very public breakdown. In June, Spears spoke out for the first time in court, asking for the conservatorship to be terminated. On the eve of this episode’s release, in fact, Britney is stronger than yesterday… yes, her father Jamie has agreed to step down from controlling his pop star daughter, after months of public pressure.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with art?

It turns out that long before the #FreeBritney movement had people poring over her Instagram for clues, or the New York Times documentary Framing Britney revisited what her story said about the media and misogyny, she’s been a surprisingly potent symbol for artists—in fact, maybe more than any other recent pop star. They’ve used her image to talk about sexism, about fame, about consumerism, and about the dark side of the 2000s.

Why Britney in particular? And does today’s reckoning with the recent past change the way that pop art takes on pop music? In a recent essay for Midnight Publishing Group News, LA-based art journalist Janelle Zara looked at artists’ fascination with Britney Spears, asking these questions and a lot more. This week, Zara joins senior writer Sarah Cascone to discuss the cult of Britney, and how she has become an unwitting inspiration to international artists.


Listen to Other Episodes:

The Art Angle Podcast: How the Medicis Became Art History’s First Influencers

The Art Angle Podcast: How Two Painters Helped Spark the Modern Conservation Movement

The Art Angle Podcast: The Hunter Biden Controversy, Explained

The Art Angle Podcast: Legendary Auctioneer Simon de Pury on Monaco, Hip Hop, and the Art Market’s New Reality

The Art Angle Podcast: 18-Year-Old NFT Star Fewocious on How Art Saved His Life, and Crashed Christie’s Website

The Art Angle Podcast (Re-Air): How Photographer Dawoud Bey Makes Black America Visible

The Art Angle Podcast: Tyler Mitchell and Helen Molesworth on Why Great Art Requires Trust

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Model Emily Ratajkowski Blasted Richard Prince for Stealing Her Image. Now, She’s Taking It Back—and Selling It as an NFT

Supermodel and art-world regular Emily Ratajkowski is following in the footsteps of Kate Moss, Paris Hilton, and other celebrities by getting into the NFT game.

But unlike the others, Ratajkowski has a specific purpose: to reclaim authority over her image.

Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution, as Ratajkowski’s NFT is called, will hit the auction block at Christie’s on May 14 in a contemporary art day sale.

Ratajkowski made the work following her September 2020 article in the Cut, in which she detailed her quest to “buy back” her likeness, which has been used by everyone from paparazzi to Richard Prince.

The image being sold is a composite of the model in her New York apartment standing in front of the Richard Prince Instagram painting that hangs in her Los Angeles home.

In both images, Ratajkowski pouts at the camera, holding one hand up to her face.

“As somebody who has built a career off of sharing my image, so many times—even though that’s my livelihood—it’s taken from me and then somebody else profits off of it,” she told the New York Times.

The work will be sold via NFT platform OpenSea. There is no reserve or opening bid listed.

Ratajkowski first came upon Prince’s work at Gagosian in New York, where it was part of a show of blown-up images from Prince’s social media feed, printed on canvas.

Installation view of Richard Prince's exhibition "Portraits" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Photo courtesy of MOCAD.

Installation view of Richard Prince’s exhibition “Portraits” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Photo courtesy of MOCAD.

When she asked to buy the work, Ratajkowski found it had already been bought by a gallery employee. Ratajkowski then bought another Prince Instagram “painting” of her, splitting the cost with her boyfriend.

For the model, who studied art at the University of California, the idea that she had to pay for a picture of herself that was taken from Instagram was absurd, as she wrote in the Cut article.

Instagram “up until then had felt like the only place where I could control how I present myself to the world, a shrine to my autonomy.

The model also wrote that one “copyright troll” was suing her for $150,000 in damages after she posted a paparazzi picture of herself to her personal Instagram. Ratajkowski was dismayed to learn that “despite being the unwilling subject of the photograph, I could not control what happened to it.”

Ratajkowski is part of a wave of celebrities who have jumped into the NFT fray. Earlier this month, musician the Weeknd released an NFT that netted more than $2 million.

“Blockchain is democratizing an industry that has historically been kept shut by the gatekeepers,” he said in a statement published by Techcrunch.

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