Mustang Painting

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Video

    Richard Prince, 'Mustang Painting', Lot 20

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 27 June 2019

  • Catalogue Essay

    Aiming to capture different facets of the American Dream through the photographic or painterly renditions of quintessentially American objects and subjects, Richard Prince’s work draws from advertisement and mass media imagery to shed a light on what is most deeply steeped in the country's collective unconscious. Falling within the iconographic field of muscle-car culture, Mustang Painting, 2014-16, presents an iridescent mustang cruising amidst an abstract and indistinct mass of blue paint. Conjuring the aesthetic of a film poster, Prince employs a striking combination of two primary colours punctuated by stabs of kaleidoscopic hues, and captures the defining shot from a floor angle, in order to amplify the effect of the car’s grandiloquent stature. A brilliant example of Prince’s thematically driven work, the present painting continues the artist’s sustained exploration of his series-oriented practice, the most celebrated of which focus on various different elements of the same fetishised culture: cars, nurses, cowboys and dry jokes.

    Having grown up between the suburbs of Colorado and the outskirts of Boston, Richard Prince was the son of two spies working for an organisation called the Office of Strategic Services – the equivalent of today’s CIA. Turning away from the political backdrop that pervaded his household in early years, Prince moved to New York City at the age of twenty-four, and began working for Time-Life Magazines four years later. There, he was a part-time staff in the employees’ bookstore, which he would frequently escape from to create art in a large storage room located three levels down in the basement. Prince transformed this space into a studio of his own; he began producing fake replicas of the ads that he saw in the magazines that populated the building – People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, among others. ‘By rephotographing a magazine page and then developing the film in a cheap lab, the photos came out very strange. They looked like they could be my photos, but they weren't’ (Richard Prince, quoted in Eva Prinz, ‘Selected Interview: Richard Prince’, Index Magazine, 2005, online).

    Birthed from the same intuition to create a copy of a copy, a simulacrum of sorts, Mustang Painting is culled from the idealised visions of macho cinema, temporalised in film stills or movie posters. Fascinated by car culture, Prince passionately plunged into road film iconography, where the likes of Dennis Wilson, James Taylor and Barry Newman drove hyper-masculine cars bravely and brazenly, at times even through the flames. ‘Vanishing Point. 1970 Dodge Challenger. Bullitt. ’68 Mustang and ’68 Dodge Charger. That’s it’, Prince exclaimed. ‘Those cars came out when I was teenager. I never owned one when I was a teenager. Too expensive. Anyway. When I started to focus on the contents of lifestyle magazines, hot-rod magazines were all over the newsstands’ (Richard Prince, quoted in Jeff Rian, ‘I thought this was the end then it started over’, Purple Magazine, no. 28, online). Famed and idealised, Prince noted that these cars quickly integrated the average American’s reality as a dream that one could buy: the trophy that would liken the consumer to the movie star. ‘I used crazy car colors. Commotion Orange. Plum Purple. It was non-fiction painting’, Prince remarked (Richard Prince, quoted in Jeff Rian, ‘I thought this was the end then it started over’, Purple Magazine, no. 28, 2017, online).

    Transcending Prince's consummate socio-cultural comment on car culture, Mustang Painting additionally illustrates the artist's passion for the bombastic qualities associated with the act of driving, including speed, fortitude, and the escape, all characteristics exploited profusely by the Beat Generation before him in ways more poetic than critical. Prince was no stranger to the literary fetishisation of roads, and at times unironically championed the well-deployed narrative of men taking command over feral nature, through the hyper-masculine use of the wheel. In this spirit of fascination, Prince had assembled first editions of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and later used a still from the movie Bullitt as the only advertising content for his key 1989 exhibition Spiritual America.

    Citing living environments that were frequently aligned with the stereotypical trappings of middle-class success, Prince additionally refers to his own background as a source of imagistic inspiration. ‘All of the houses were exactly the same, and everyone was so affluent, with brand new cars, television sets, and wall-to-wall carpeting’, he conceded (Richard Prince, quoted in Eva Prinz, ‘Selected Interview: Richard Prince’, Index Magazine, 2005, online). Parked outside neighbouring houses that were presumably as large and beautiful as those from the movie sets, the luxurious cars that dotted Prince’s privileged environment in the suburbs of Boston were like physical mirrors to the people that surrounded him but with whom he never interacted. As such, they served as a starting point from which to create. ‘It was the perfect thing to paint. Great size. Great subtext. Great reality. Great thing that actually got painted out there, out there in real life. I mean I didn't have to make this shit up. It was there’, he remarked (Richard Prince, quoted in ‘In the Picture: Jeff Rian in conversation with Richard Prince’, in Rosetta Brooks, Jeffrey Rian and Luc Sante, Richard Prince, London, 2003, p. 23).

    Art-historically, the subject of cars and automobiles has nourished the creative production of many – predominantly male – artists, despite the relatively short existence of the vehicle as a fully-functioning object, having appeared for the first time in the late 19th century. Artists like John Chamberlain, César, Andy Warhol and Salvatore Scarpitta, among others, have all dedicated a large part of their artistic energy to creating works revolving around the theme. Yet perhaps the most potent link to Prince’s work exists with artist Ed Ruscha, who equally employed a painterly style that borrowed from the sleekness of advertising billboards, book covers and film posters, straddling a tone of glamour and humour, and exploring the vernacular of urban landscapes and car culture. ‘The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Ed Ruscha is Gas Station’, declared Prince. ‘I see him pulling into a Sunoco or Chevron… driving a ’56 Chevy … or a 1970 Dodge Challenger, the one that Barry Newman drove in the movie Vanishing Point’ (Richard Prince, quoted in Ed Ruscha: Road Tested, Modern Art Museum of Fort Woth, 2011, online).

    A pulsating example of Richard Prince’s muscle car paintings, Mustang Painting exudes an immaculately graphic surface that physically likens it to the ‘lacquered’ or ‘Steve McQueened’ cars the artist envisioned in his young days (Richard Prince, quoted in Jeff Rian, ‘I thought this was the end then it started over’, Purple Magazine, no. 28, 2017, online).

  • Artist Bio

    Richard Prince

    American • 1947

    For more than three decades, Prince's universally celebrated practice has pursued the subversive strategy of appropriating commonplace imagery and themes – such as photographs of quintessential Western cowboys and "biker chicks," the front covers of nurse romance novellas, and jokes and cartoons – to deconstruct singular notions of authorship, authenticity and identity.

    Starting his career as a member of the Pictures Generation in the 1970s alongside such contemporaries as Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Sherrie Levine, Prince is widely acknowledged as having expanded the accepted parameters of art-making with his so-called "re-photography" technique – a revolutionary appropriation strategy of photographing pre-existing images from magazine ads and presenting them as his own. Prince's practice of appropriating familiar subject matter exposes the inner mechanics of desire and power pervading the media and our cultural consciousness at large, particularly as they relate to identity and gender constructs.

    View More Works

20

Property from the Collection of Alex Rodriguez

Mustang Painting

signed, inscribed and dated 'Richard Prince 2014-2016 #2' on the reverse
inkjet and acrylic on canvas
177.2 x 121.6 cm (69 3/4 x 47 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2014-16.

Estimate
£700,000 - 1,000,000 

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Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén

Director, Senior Specialist
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4060
rwiden@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2019