LA Artist Attempts to Capitalize on Leaked Celebrity Nude Photos
The modern art world is fiercely competitive. With the success of the urban art movement, artists must find a way to stand out in a very saturated market. At first, this vigilante generation of artists exploited inventive ways to bring their message to the public. Such legendary tactics included plastering the streets with images of cult wrestler Andre the Giant (Shepard Fairey), and spray-painting the Israeli/Palestinian border (Banksy). The success of this movement brought in an entirely new generation of art collectors. All of a sudden, Obey posters that were initially sold for a measly 20$ were worth thousands on the secondary market. Aspiring artists have been trying to cash in ever since.
Hype is what drives this new and flourishing art market. Hype turned Thierry Guetta (“Mr. Brainwash”) into a world-wide sensation overnight, regardless of the fact that his work was (and still is) widely paned by the critical community. LA based artist XVALA is trying to drum up some hype of his own. XVALA sent the intent into a flurry when he announced that he would be displaying prints of the recently leaked nude photographs of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton in his upcoming show, “No Delete.” As artistic inspiration the artist claims: “We share our secrets with technology…And when we do, our privacy becomes accessible to others.”
XVALA and the Cory Allen Gallery were immediately inundated with criticism. A mere five days after the initial announcement, Cory Allen Gallery released a statement claiming that the photos would no longer be used in the exhibition. XVALA stated that “People were identifying with Jennifer Lawrence’s and Kate Upton’s victimization, much more than I had anticipated, which is powerfully persuasive.” However, all you nude photography aficionados have nothing to fear, as the exhibit will now feature nude photos of XVALA himself. It is unclear at this time whether the show will still showcase the stolen nude photos of Brittany Spears and Scarlett Johansson, as originally planned.
The legal implications of XVALA’s exhibit are staggering. This list of possible causes of action under which Lawrence or Upton could bring suit include appropriation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false light invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and violation of these women’s right of publicity. Interestingly enough, one of the the strongest claims they may have is copyright infringement, as the majority of the other causes of action have first amendment defenses that relate to public figures. If these women took the nude photos themselves they own the exclusive right to reproduce or display them as they see fit. Thus, XVALA’s reproduction of the photographs, and subsequent display of such prints would indeed violate the copyright of the owners.
Regardless of the legal implications, the ethical ramifications of this exhibit are questionable at best. While I wholeheartedly support the subjectivity of art in general, displaying these photographs not only adds to the shame and humiliation of the women in question; it doesn’t logically fit into XVALA’s overall message. Lets recap. The exhibition is supposed to be a vocally anti-internet statement about the consequences of the current digital age. In anticipation of this exhibit, XVALA has apparently been building a collection of leaked illicit celebrity photos for a number of years. Finally, the stated goal of XVALA’s “Fear Google” campaign is to “disappear from the internet.” Confused? Yeah, me too.
Does this artist not realize that downloading and reproducing stolen photographs
contributes to the reduction of privacy in the digital age? If it weren’t for sickos like XVALA, and their collections of illicit photos, hackers would not be as incentivized to commit these horrible crimes. Furthermore, if your goal is to “disappear from the internet,” you probably shouldn’t be spending “years” collecting photos off of Google. Also, you probably shouldn’t allow a gallery to post criminally lame emo-selfies in their press releases. Instead of coming off as a rebellious artist, XVALA looks like a mopey pre-teen going through a “Taking Back Sunday” phase.
XVALA’s message is convoluted at best, and down right asinine at worst. Regardless, it all comes down to hype. Almost every major news outlet covered his exhibition, and such coverage is now the featured content in Google searches concerning the nude photo scandal. For someone who is so vocally anti-internet, XVALA sure knows how to use it to his advantage.