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.
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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