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Justin Timberlake Mugshot Gets Warhol Treatment

July 9, 2024
A photo of Justin Timberlake in a tuxedo

Justin Timberlake (photo courtesy of Georges Biard)

In the early morning hours of June 18th, police in Sag Harbor, New York, pulled over and arrested pop star Justin Timberlake for driving while intoxicated. He had refused to take a breathalyzer and failed the field sobriety test. Shortly after, Sag Harbor police released his mugshot, showing Timberlake’s bloodshot, glazed-over eyes. While many felt shocked or disappointed over the news, a pair of artists recognized the arrest as a memorable moment in popular culture. They, therefore, decided to give the mugshot the Warhol treatment.

Painter Robert Lohman and photographer Mary Godfrey decided to use the Timberlake mugshot as the basis for a series of inkjet prints in four different color variations. The neon greens, blues, and pinks used in the series provide brightness against the photo’s context, a celebrity’s moment of shame. The prints resemble Andy Warhol’s colorful portraits of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures, including Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, and Queen Elizabeth II. According to Lohman, this was done rather intentionally: “Andy Warhol’s genius was in knowing which images would capture and evoke a moment in time, and Justin’s mug shot seemed to me to do exactly that. I thought it was deserving of the Warhol treatment, and I believe Andy would approve.” Lohman and Godfrey are selling the series, called Tuesday Night Out Featuring Justin Timberlake, through the Romany Kramoris Gallery in Sag Harbor. Funnily enough, the gallery is directly across the street from the American Hotel, where Timberlake allegedly had only one Martini before getting in his car. The Kramoris Gallery is currently selling the prints for $520 each. In the short time they’ve been available, the Timberlake series has already received a fair bit of attention, with calls coming in from across North America, even as far as Germany and Australia.

There are, however, some questions about the prints’ legality. While mugshots are typically in the public domain, New York State has a law on the books protecting what is called the “right of publicity.” New York State law prohibits you from using someone’s likeness for a commercial purpose unless you obtain a license. However, should such an issue arise in the courts, the artists and the gallery can claim that the series has enough artistic merit and is sufficiently transformative to claim fair use of the image. These potential legal issues raise concerns about the boundaries of artistic expression and the rights of public figures. However, these questions will go unanswered unless Timberlake files a lawsuit.