Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    303 Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ When I first photographed an image I was simply trying to put something out there that was more natural looking than it was when I saw it as a photograph… I did not consider myself as a photographer, I considered myself as an artist.”

    Richard Prince’s career has been defined as much by its notoriety as for its surprising bursts of aestheticism and breathtaking originality. The present lot, Untitled (Cowboy), 1986 is a perfect example of the latter. As part of his Cowboys series, first conceived in the early 1980s, Prince’s gorgeous portrait of Americana zeroes in on both issues of artistic production and our visual treasures as Americans. Prince’s “re-photographs” undergo a standard process in order to erupt from their original visual context: Prince photographs Marlboro ads (with their ubermasculine portrayals of Cowboys tackling the elements of Western America), then crops out both unnecessary text and undesired sections of the picture. He then blows up the “rephotograph” to achieve the aesthetic ideal of appropriation: an isolation of the visual splendors of the original photograph.

    In the present lot, Prince has chosen to present us with our hero in the midst of hardship, trudging through the deep snows of the Western winter. Yet there is a glorious freedom in his struggle, and his horse pounds through the elements with a quintessentially American sense of optimism and drive. Adorned in multiple layers of leather and fur, Prince’s protagonist takes a second to glance out at the wonders of his country, as if to acknowledge the splendors of the land as his own at that very moment. Here, we see a parallel to Prince’s method of production: while the source of his image may not be original, its elevation is solely Prince’s doing.

  • 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 (Cowboy)

color coupler print
24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)
Signed, numbered and dated “R. Prince 1/2 1986” on the reverse. This work is number 1 from an edition of 2.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $425,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 16 May 2013 7pm