Richard Prince - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Treading a thin line between satire and subversion, Richard Prince’s art seeks to disorient its audience with a sense of pseudo-familiarity. Foraging from photographs, billboards, and pulp fiction—the latter thanks to the artist’s ardent bibliophilic tendencies—Prince’s work destabilises our notions of authenticity and authorship. When taken against the wider context of Prince’s ‘re-photography’ techniques, Untitled is a work that similarly features the artist’s adoption and repackaging of the world around him; a plane rife with various racial and sexual neuroses, perpetuated by a smorgasbord of mainstream humour, mythical cowboys and fetishised pin-up girls.

    One of Prince’s most coveted figures, the trope of the ‘naughty nurse’ is a prevailing icon that continually resurfaces in the artist’s lexicon, and which originates from cabaret, pornography, and fashion magazines. From the late nineties onwards, and drawing from the covers of his own collection of mid-century Naughty Nurse books, Richard Prince created a series based on the same book titles, producing works from Millionaire Nurse to Man-Crazy Nurse. In these, Prince presents the viewer with a nurse-turned-seductress, masked and set against a dark, dripping surface, shown alongside a provocative yet ambiguous book title in neon. In de-contextualising the source of his protagonists, the nurses lend themselves to a renewed meditation of American pop culture that stretches beyond the boundaries of its original subject matter.

    In 2007, Prince would go on to collaborate with Marc Jacobs on a Spring/Summer 2008 Louis Vuitton collection based on such ‘Nurse Paintings’. The collaboration proved so iconic that the duo cooperated further in 2009, on Louis Vuitton x “After Dark”, an exploration of cityscapes at night. As Prince recounts, “The After Dark series is another subject matter that’s just starting for me. It started when I met with Marc Jacobs a couple of years ago. I started to come up with some ideas for a campaign and one of the ideas was Louis Vuitton after dark. I also just remembered I had all these ‘After Dark’ books in my library and what I liked about them was, aside from the suggestion of what that actually means, the books had been written in all these different cities that I would find. I tried to hunt them down and every country seemed to have an ‘After Dark’ book. I liked the little text that went with it and I liked the font.” (N.Skukur, ‘Interview with Richard Prince’, Russh Magazine, 2010).

    A sense of exoticism certainly prevails in such ‘After Dark’ works: coupled with the tantalising ambiguity and displacement of the heroines, the series demonstrates Prince’s ability to reveal and obscure his subjects, imbuing his canvases with an aura of anticipation, promiscuity and unabashed sensuality. Especially given its pink and red colour palette, the present work in particular is an investigation of the fetishisation of the Far East—the kitschy, stereotypical “Chinese Takeout” typeface of the title glowing above the topless figure can perhaps be considered a deliberate affront to such tawdry novellas, excavating such themes as colonisation, and its fetishisation and eroticisation of the “Orient”. In Prince’s rendition, the viewer is presented with a work that is a cipher, a riddle that is filled with layers of meaning. Prince has combined digital imaging with gestural brushwork in order to create a work that challenges not only notions of authorship, but also which summons the fetishisation and commodification of corruption in a seemingly calculated plunge into the depths of our collective psyche.

    Heralding art, fashion and exoticism, Richard Prince was invited once more by Louis Vuitton to create one of Hong Kong’s first public art installations, essentially packaging the exterior of the Hong Kong Museum of Art in celebration of the city’s annual Le French May Arts Festival and the 2009 exhibition Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation. The museum was wrapped with a monumental patchwork of replicas of the pulp-fiction novels that inspired the artist’s series—and it is perhaps especially fitting that the current work will be presently re-contextualised against an Asian setting, injecting the work with an added layer of significance.

    Deliberately subversive in his mode of execution, Richard Prince’s signature navigation and adoption of American subculture, idiosyncrasies, and vernacular are at the heart of his oeuvre. Remarkably, while Prince draws from a rich and complex tapestry laced with the Marlboro Man, nymphomaniac nurses, grunge, and pulp fiction central to American identity, the artist has been adept at creating a unique, universal language that is infused with his very own critique, commentary, and at times caricature of the world that surrounds him.

  • Artist Biography

    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.

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inkjet and acrylic on canvas
149.9 x 193 cm. (59 x 75 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2010.

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,000,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019