In April, actress and model Emily Ratajkowski wrote on Twitter that she was “reclaiming” her identity by selling a self-portrait of herself through a significant auction house. The “abstract artwork,” named “Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution”, sold in New York for $175,000 on Friday.
But it wasn’t just an ordinary photograph.
The photograph– for which the bidding started at $4,000– shows Emily with her arms crossed in front of another painting hanging on her wall: a canvas by Richard Prince. He infamously stole one of her Instagram posts for his own exhibition.
The picture, which Prince displayed without her permission, features a portrait she shot for Sports Illustrated in addition to public Instagram comments reacting to the image– including one added by the artist, in which he seems to detail fantasies about her.
“I hope to symbolically set an example for ownership online, and women, one that allows for women to receive rightful compensation for their photograph’s usage and distribution and to have ongoing authority over it,” Emily wrote on Twitter on April 25.
Emily’s “reclaimed” image was sold as an (NFT) or non-fungible token, a kind of digital signature that uses blockchain technology to verify ownership of digital assets, including photographs.
She is not the first celebrity to jump on the NFT bandwagon. Lindsay Lohan, Grimes and Ja Rule are among many others to sell work using the tokens, which let the art market grow significantly into digital art, enabling the sale of viral tweets and memes. The first NFT to sell at a big auction house by the artist Mike Winkelmann or professionally as Beeple Crap fetched $70 million at Christie’s in March.