skip to Main Content

Art Movement in Focus : Appropriation Art – An Introduction

Welcome to Art Movement in Focus! In this section, we explore significant art movements in history through a series of articles dedicated to each movement. Here’s looking at Neo-Expressionism.

Appropriation Art – An Introduction

The act of Appropriation is defined as an act of unlawful acquisition. Thus, applied to real physical property, or intellectual even, the implications of the term become more complicated. As this is applied to the world of art, it amplifies its import.

The earliest acts of ‘Appropriation’ can be tracked back to Picasso, And Georges Braque. They were known for their uniquely crafted collages using, objects and newsprint representing their ideas, and presenting their individualism. It was a fine line they were treading.  But the artist who was the propagators of this trend were pioneers in their own right. One of the most notorious pieces was Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 1915, a urinal piece that was mounted and presented.

Gradually the trend expanded to include photographs, images, and objects. There were several artists in the 50swho were re-representing the works of artistic greats and were making a case for creating new dialogues and contexts of understanding. They were attempting to create a new conversation to a seemingly known image or artwork.

Therefore the objective of these artists was complex and was rooted in a sense of raising some sort of awareness, always challenging notions. They were also seriously questioning the concepts of originality. What did it mean to be an artist? And if such a thing really existed? In this sense, they were asking questions that had been raised previously but never found such a resonance.

The movement then continued to flow through the works of many artists and several artists branched into Pop Art.

The Dialogue

One of the longstanding dialogues has been around Sherri Levine’s re-photographing Allie Mae Burroughs. Levine’s print rests at the Metropolitan Museum. It raises the paradox of originality. Presumably, Walker made several prints himself. Moreover, his photographing and representation of America inundated during the Great Depression was under the scanner. And in one sweep Levine raised the following question. So how do the aesthetic aspect of art and the concept of an artistic genius come to be closely wrapped ? And warped? How does it move towards monetising.    

OUR TOP 6 Artists for Appropriation Art

The Artists from this genre are careful in their usage of materials. They created works that were extremely original on their own and were successful in subverting pre-existing notions. A lot of the value for this particular brand of art is generated from the shock value. Here are some of the artists who successfully did rock the ideas boat, paving the way for many others. 

  1. Richard Pettibone
  2. Barbara Kruger
  3. Richard Prince
  4. Sherri Levine
  5. Rosalyn Drexler
  6. Yasumasa Morimura


Part of the reason why Appropriation art is successful is that it contains a part of a previously known artwork and by virtue of a memory connection the idea is easily assimilated. The artists too were cogent and effective in their utilising their material.

Richard Pettibone
Andy Warhol Most Wanted Man 1963 R. Pettibone

Andy Warhol Most Wanted Man 1963 R. Pettibone 1969, Richard Pettibone (b. 1938)
Image courtesy:

Barbara Kruger
Untitled (We don’t need another hero)

Untitled (We Don’t Need Another Hero), 1987, Barbara Kruger(b. 1945 )
Image courtesy:

Richard Prince

Untitled (Cowboy) 1998, Richard Prince (b. 1949)
Image courtesy:

Sherri Levine
After Walker Evans: 4

After Walker Evans:4, 1981, Sherrie Levine (b. 1947)
Image courtesy:

Rosalyn Drexler
The Dream

The Dream, 1963, Rosalyn Drexler (1926-1986)
Image courtesy:

Yasumasa Morimura
Self-Portrait – After Audrey Hepburn 1

Self-Portrait – After Audrey Hepburn 1, 1996, Yasumasa Morimura (b. 1951)
Image courtesy:

For more such quick introductions and lists regarding Art History, visit Art Movement in Focus.

Back To Top