Art style

The High Court will hear a case over the art of Andy Warhol, Prince photo

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a copyright dispute involving artwork by artist Andy Warhol based on a photograph of musician Prince.

A lower court initially ruled that artwork created before Warhol’s death in 1987 was a “fair use” of Lynn Goldsmith’s photograph because it transformed the original work. But the 2nd United States Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New York, disagreed. The Supreme Court said it would review that decision. The case will be argued sometime after the start of the court’s new term in October.

Warhol created a series of 16 works of art based on a photo of Prince taken in 1981 by Goldsmith, a pioneering photographer known for his portraits of famous musicians. The series originated after Vanity Fair commissioned Warhol to create an illustration of Prince in 1984 to accompany a magazine article.

The magazine paid $400 to allow Warhol to use Goldsmith’s photograph as a reference to create his own work. The agreement limited the photograph’s use to a single instance in the magazine and required, among other things, that Vanity Fair give credit to Goldsmith. In 2016, after Prince’s death, the magazine published a tribute issue with one of Warhol’s works on the cover. It did not include credit to Goldsmith. Goldsmith said it was only then that she learned about the Prince series.

The dispute the court has agreed to hear is between the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which now licenses Warhol’s works, and Goldsmith.