Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 14, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Lehmann Maupin, New York
    Private Collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “It's interesting how people who were once fairly radical can become, later in life, kind of conservative and not just in terms of politics—how if you're an artist, you can start out being somewhat avant-garde and then end up doing landscapes.” Richard Prince, 2008

    American artist Richard Prince is the postmodern master of cultural appropriation. Breaking ground in 1982 with his infamous Cowboy Photographs, gleaned from the Marlboro cigarette campaign, his Protest Paintings continue in this vain of capturing and manipulating the visual traces of American ephemera. The Protest Paintings, created between 1986 and 1994, depict a protest demonstration placard of the kind used by activists to rally for a cause: social, humanitarian or political. Executed on a vertical canvas, the outlined shape of a protest placard is symmetrically placed and dissects the canvas into a cruciform pattern. In place of protest slogans that would normally be seen on such signs, Prince places the text of fragments of jokes with brightly colored, painterly abstraction filling the remainder of the composition.

    The present lot, Untitled (Protest Painting), 1994, illustrates a white wash protest sign, one which would be typically used to convey a protest or chant, which here has been replaced with one of Prince’s iconic jokes that reads: “Two psychiatrists, one says to the other I was having lunch with my mother the other day and I made a Freudian slip. I meant to say please pass the butter and it came out you fuckin bitch you ruined my life.” Beneath a joke typically lies a painful truth and for Prince, his recycled bad-taste jokes displace the public messages usually associated with the trappings of social protest. Surrounding the shape of the sign are repeated patterns of sharp alternating silver, white, and black stripes that have the menacing associations of either prison garb or steel blades. His Protest Paintings not only recycle a tasteless shrink and domineering mother joke but also cull from many different painterly techniques of twentieth century American art. The silkscreen patterns, exposed under-painting, smears and assertive paint smudges draw upon the signature techniques of artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg. Untitled (Protest Painting), 1994 appropriates the incisive form of the protest placard into a variable surface that can accommodate an array of verbal signs, and one where the artist can manifest all his creative energy, while questioning the expressive power of free speech.

  • 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 on canvas
canvas 38 1/4 x 18 1/4 in. (97.2 x 46.4 cm)
frame 43 3/4 x 20 1/2 in. (111.1 x 52.1 cm)

Signed and dated " R. Prince 1994" on the reverse.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $701,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm