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Did this Vogue Rihanna shoot rip off black artist's work?

SIMILARITIES: The artist behind a photoshoot of Rihanna has been accused of ripping off an established black artist

THE PHOTOGRAPHER behind one of Rihanna’s Vogue photoshoots has been accused of ripping off a black female artist Mickalene Thomas.

Juergen Teller, a German artist and photographer, shot the Bajan singer for the December 2017/January 2018 cover of Vogue Paris.

At the time of its release, the images – which feature Rihanna wearing a range of prints against clashing patterned backgrounds – were praised. However, this week an online debate over the originality of the style used has ensued, forcing the gallery, which represents both artists, to issue a statement.

One Twitter user who was among those who pointed out the similarities between the work of Teller and Thomas said: “I know we are in an era where people feel like they can take whatever they want and call it original and theirs but we should remember that artists like Mickalene have taken great pain to create an aesthetic that is informed by concern, study, history and a love of black women.

“It was once a very unpopular position to take and she took it anyway. We should honor and protect the space she created for herself and black women.”

Thomas and Teller, who are both represented by Lehmann Maupin, are listed side by side on the gallery’s artists’ page.

Another Twitter user, who goes by the name Steve Jxseph, published a series of tweets that included Rihanna in multiple poses for a shoot by Teller, followed by a tweet drawing similarities between the work and that of Thomas.

Jxseph tweeted: “I just wanna point out that this is very similar to Mickalene Thomas’ work and juergen needs to explain what’s going on.”

The original tweet, which simply highlighted Teller’s shoot, sparked the comparisons after another someone commented: “Umm is he not totally ripping off Mickalene Thomas? It’s a little too close.”

Jxseph replied: “He totally is. Thank you for pointing it out!”


SIDE BY SIDE: Juergen and Thomas are listed next to one another on the Lehmann Maupin website (Image: Screenshot/Lehmann Maupin)

A 2017 Vogue Paris Instagram post of a photograph from the shoot features the Thomas’s name among the hashtags in the caption.

A statement circulating online, which is reportedly an email sent from Lehmann Maupin, said: “Mickalene Thomas’s prolific body of work has been instrumental; in addressing inequality within art history and art institutions through her representation and reclamation of traditional art historical genres and depictions of beauty and desire around the female body, particularly black women, who have too long been marginalised in our culture.”

The gallery added: “As Mickalene’s long-time gallery and advocate, we vigorously stand by her in defending the originality of her work.”

Neither artist has publicly responded to the online outrage.

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