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Juergen Teller Accused of Ripping Off Mickalene Thomas in Rihanna Photo Shoot

After online detractors recently accused photographer Juergen Teller of cribbing the aesthetic of artist Mickalene Thomas for the former’s photo shoot of Rihanna in the December/January issue of Vogue Paris, New York gallery Lehmann Maupin—which represents both artists—issued a statement earlier today. “We vigorously stand by her in defending the originality of her work,” the gallery’s statement said of Thomas. In a follow-up statement, the gallery explained that it did not represent Teller’s commercial work, only his fine art, and said it was “hopeful that there will be a resolution between these two artists.” 

The shoot recently drew ire on Twitter, where images of Teller's photo spread posted by a user named @STEVEJXSEPH garnered thousands of likes but also sparked a backlash from writers including Antwaun Sargent and Muna Mire.

Teller was one of three photographers commissioned to photograph Rihanna for Vogue Paris, the others being Inez & Vinoodh and Jean-Paul Goude. The gallery said it had no involvement in the Vogue Paris shoot, for which Teller portrayed Rihanna posed amid vibrant mismatched patterns, in domestic interiors, and through photocollage—all elements that define Thomas’s portraiture, which is known to feature black female subjects in depictions that address notions of exploitation and desire, often by remixing iconic imagery from art history through her own distinctly vibrant idiom. 

“Throughout her career, Mickalene has developed an internationally recognized visual language that is deeply rooted in photography but encompasses collage, painting, video, and immersive installation,” Lehmann Maupin’s statement reads. “Mickalene has earned the right to be recognized and commended for her ground-breaking contributions to contemporary art and visual culture, and for a signature aesthetic that she has been cultivating for decades. As Mickalene’s long-time gallery and advocate, we vigorously stand by her in defending the originality of her work.”

Teller has not yet issued a statement at this time.

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