Cariou v. Prince: Toward a Theory of Aesthetic-Judicial Judgments

Cariou v. Prince: Toward a Theory of Aesthetic-Judicial Judgments

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento and Lauren van Haaften-Schick

Texas A&M Law Review, Volume One, 2013–2014

Download the article here.


This article is the product of a class I took in the Sociology of Culture with professor Cynthia Epstein at the CUNY Graduate Center in Fall 2013,  and of a talk given by Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento at Texas A&M University around the same time.

Following his talk, Munoz Sarmiento was invited to contribute an article to this issue of the Law Review. Noting the similarity in our respective papers’ arguments concerning the Cariou v. Prince case, appropriation, copyright and artists’ labor rights, Muñoz Sarmiento invited me to collaborate on this publication, taking it as an opportunity to memorialize the numerous conversations we had had on what this seminal appropriation art case meant for contemporary art, art history, and artistic production and reception. 

Thus, this theoretical article is written with the intent of impacting the mindset of those in the arts. Not that those in the law cannot gain from our article. We imagine the article as providing another glimpse to those in the law other than the spectacle portrayed on a daily basis by glossy magazines, art journals, and sensationalist blogs.

The article is also not intended to rewrite or much less rehash all that has been written about medium specificity, aesthetic judgments, and labor in art. Instead, the article pinpoints these three main areas so as to highlight how law — when misapplied and leveraged by those with specific agendas — can have dire consequences for artists, curators, and writers beyond the walls of a court and auction house.

My sincere thanks to Muñoz Sarmiento for inviting me to collaborate with him on what we hope will prove an important article and position to take.



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