Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
    Private collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    I didn’t get the psychiatrist joke for a long time, to tell you the truth. Also, with a joke, it’s funny where you locate yourself. In the psychiatrist joke, I realized that I identified with
    the psychiatrist. I identify with the person who says, ‘Tell me.’ I don’t identify with the “I” or the pronoun. Now it’s as if I have 15 jokes, a routine, and every once in a while I incorporate another into the act.


    (Richard Prince, Interview by M. Heiferman, “Richard Prince” BOMB, issue 24, Summer 1988).

    Prince’s practice is largely associated with the appropriation of imagery, most commonly re-contextualizing objects and images from the advertising world through re-photographing. In the present lot, Untitled (Protest Painting), 1989-1992, Prince continues to borrow object form, text, and imagery from popular culture; in this case, mining from an old joke book, top 40 style music and the form of a picket sign– the context of which evokes the aesthetic revolution and political upheavel of the 1960s. Extending from the joke series, Richard Prince began his Protest paintings in 1986; the artist’s earlier paintings from this series feature comedic phrases silkscreened onto monochromatic backgrounds or repeated onto motif-like backgrounds.

    In the present lot, three pieces of canvas make up the composition: two monochromatic canvases flank and frame the central canvas, which, if observed as a separate component, takes the form of a protest sign. The title of the piece, Untitled (Protest Painting), 1989-1992, illuminates the form of the object within the painting as much as it alludes to freedom of expression. Here, hand-written and seemingly stenciled jokes are interspersed between a rant about Andy Warhol’s unwarranted fame, eroticized text and chorus lyrics from popular song by the band War, as well as a phone number scrawled repeatedly– as though inviting interaction or confrontation. The more prominent joke that appears in Untitled (Protest Painting), 1989-1992, is one that Prince has admittedly repeated over fifteen times throughout his joke series: “I went to see a psychiatrist. He said, ‘tell me everything.’ I did and now he’s doing my act.” The somewhat subtle punch line here is that Prince identifies with the psychiatrist, ultimately appropriating a joke about appropriation.

  • 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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Untitled (Protest Painting)

acrylic, silkscreen, graphite and paper on canvas, in three parts laid on board
37 3/4 x 19 1/2 in. (95.9 x 49.5 cm)
Inscribed “RP735” on the reverse.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $218,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 May 2012
New York