Project #AppropriationArt


Appropriation Art – What does this term mean?

Or first of all – what does Eva Leopoldi have to do with appropriation art?

Does this work sound familiar to you? Or do you spontaneously think of Edgar Degas? Correct! You are not wrong.

A silk painting by Eva Leopoldi showing a beautiful, red-haired young woman in front of her mirror getting ready to go out
“Saturday Evening, 8 p.m.” by Eva Leopoldi after “In Front of the Mirror” by Edgar Degas before “This Way or the Other” by Someone or Another.

In the early days of my artistic existence, I built my art on three pillars with which I tried to reach the observer of my works on an emotional as well as on a mental level. These three pillars were 1. the very personal expressiveness and colouring in my paintings, 2. the fact that I paint exclusively on silk and 3. being an appropriation artist.

I always worked with works that already existed in art history. I repeated a certain image, but my new works differed from the original images in terms of conception, intention, medium, context and strategy.

These original images were always images that touched my soul, evoked memories, feelings, even longings. Then I integrated these very subjective feelings into my painting. I translated, so to speak, the original image into “my language”, which consisted of colours, concrete forms and contours.
The term translation, which is taken up by Benjamin as well as by Derrido and Mark Wigley, comes very close to my idea of the conception of the image. (From “Artistic Strategies of the Fake” by Stefan Römer, p. 269).

This resulted in a new work with a completely new pictorial statement, which I placed on an equal footing with all the other statements that already existed or were yet to emerge.


With my obvious references to appropriation, e.g. through titles or the use of very well-known pictorial material, I always wanted to appeal to the viewers’ intellect as well, to bring them to an independent reflexive contemplation of images and to point out the realisation that there are an infinite number of points of view in life, all of which have their justification because they are “true” from the point of view of the individual.


The American philosopher Nelson Goodman put it this way:

“There is not THE object any more than there is THE world….. The way an object shows itself to us and what it shows itself to be always depends on the conditions under which we look at it. The sense organs do not serve to take in a given world, but to produce it for us. Before we have what we usually call a fact, data must be filtered, distinguished, classified and organised. Thus, every supposed fact is already an interpretation. What is realistically true for us is only that which most closely corresponds to our habits of seeing – which could just as easily be different and are different at different times and in other cultures.”


In relation to my art, these insights could and still can be summed up in one sentence: “The viewer, not the artist, determines the meaning of a work of art!”
I wanted – and want more than ever today – to point to the phenomenon of multiple pictorial statements, which are indicated by the uniqueness of the respective recipients who are prepared to engage reflexively with the picture.

In my opinion, the artist’s why is secondary – the most important thing for an art viewer should first and foremost be his or her OWN reference to the work of art, but with the knowledge that even the viewer’s new story IS ONLY ONE EXPRESSION OF INFINITELY MANY.

To publicise this idea, I also multiplied the titles of my works at the time by offering three possibilities: The original title (if known), my new title and the third title that everyone can work out for themselves, represented by “This way or the other” from “this one or another”.

For example, I painted a work entitled:
“Tradition – Security or Prison?” by “Eva Leopoldi after “On Sunday” by “Amadeo Modigliani” before “This Way or the Other” by “this one or another”.


Here I would like to quote Jean-Francois Lyotard, who said: “Traditional art relied on a reality that it could reflect, exaggerate, embellish. Modern art has recognised that there is really nothing with reality, that painting consequently does not start from a reality but from itself, that it must therefore proceed reflexively. … If modern painting once again refers to reality, then precisely in order to show how little reality really is.” (from “Aesthetic Thinking” by Wolfgang Welsch, p. 87).
And here you can find examples of my art of appropriation: My View of Things.


In the following summary, the artist Eva Leopoldi has attempted to present the concept, the development and, above all, the thinking behind appropriation art from an art historical perspective:

The Copy as an Art Form from Antiquity to the Present. By Eva Leopoldi – Written in 2004, unfortunately only in German at the moment.

By the way, Leopoldi has not only appropriated paintings. During her exhibitions on the theme of appropriation, she has also shown, by using objects that one would not expect to find in an exhibition, how exciting and enriching it can be to change the world a little. Simply because she felt like it.

A white garden chair described with quotes - An art project by Eva Leopoldi
A chair does not have to be limited to being just a chair.



Back to the project summit page