Richard Prince - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Nurses Dormitory #3 is a sumptuous example of Richard Prince’s iconic Nurse paintings created from 2002 onwards. Drawing upon the illustrated covers of dime-store pulp romance novellas from the artist’s personal book collection, Prince’s Nurses explore and subvert the erotic stereotype of the fetishized nurse figure. Portraying a golden-haired nurse with a sultry glance saturated in a sunset saze, the present work is one of three known iterations based off of Alice Brennan’s Nurses Dormitory, 1962. Executed in 2003, the work featured in I Can’t Feel My Face, curated by KAWS at Royal/T, Los Angeles, in 2009.


    Mark Rothko, Ochre and Red on Red, 1954. Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., Image: © The Phillips Collection, Artwork: © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    A pivotal series in Prince’s oeuvre, the Nurse paintings extended his Picture Generation roots of appropriated imagery and established the grounds for Prince’s later renditions of Willem de Kooning’s Women beginning in 2007, as well as the painted revisitations of his own Cowboy imagery in 2012. Prince treats his Nurses with a femme fatale twist, reflecting a noir-manipulated appropriation that diverges from the more blatant sexualized tone of his “biker chicks.” Recalling Roy Lichtenstein’s comic subject matter, Prince’s Nurses combine the appropriation of both pop imagery and text. At the same time, the Nurse paintings are distinctive in demonstrating a rejoinder to Abstract Expressionism. Conjuring Mark Rothko’s sublime color fields as well as de Kooning’s swift gestural strokes, the pronounced painterly quality inherent to the series encapsulates a “bloody, drippy splatter sampling of AbEx gesturalism.”i


    Roy Lichtenstein, Nurse, 1964. Private Collection, Artwork: © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

    For his Nurse paintings, Prince developed an innovative technical process of handling appropriated images that departed from his prior practice of photographing pre-existing images. An avid bibliophile with a vast book collection, Prince took a group of vintage hospital romance paperbacks he owned and digitally scanned the covers of choice. After enlarging and transferring the cover image onto the canvas using an inkjet printer, the artist then embellished the inkjet ground with abundant layers of acrylic paint. In the case of the Nurses Dormitory paintings, Prince preserved the centrally positioned brunette figure among the three nurses illustrated on Brennan’s book cover, varying her hair color and the degree of visible text in each rendition. In the present work, the artist’s sweeping gestures and generous application of paint completely obscure the cover’s plot tagline, epitomizing Prince’s hallmark of subverting authorial agency.


    Alice Brennan’s Nurses Dormitory, 1962

    In the Nurse paintings, Prince deliberately obscures the countenance of the spotlighted figure with a surgical mask that eerily evokes the state of today’s global climate. In fact, Prince conceived the idea for his Nurses at the peak of the SARS pandemic. In a 2014 interview, the artist recalled, “The subject matter does come first and how it’s presented comes second….With the Nurse paintings, I believe I started out just reading the paper. It just occurred to me that everyone needed a nurse. [...] There’s a whole genre and I’d had [books on] them for years. [...] I made a mistake painting all this white—this is when I say I get lucky. After I had wiped off some of the painting, it looked like a mask on the nurse’s face and suddenly it was one of those moments. When I noticed that, I realized that was going to be the contribution to the image, to put a mask on these various nurse illustrations. It was a way of unifying and also talking about identity.”ii


    i David Rimanelli, “Best of 2003,” Artforum, December 2003.

    ii Richard Prince, quoted in Natalie Shukur, “Richard Prince,” Russh Magazine, December 2014.

    • Provenance

      Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Royal/T, I Can’t Feel My Face, February 22 – September 7, 2009
      Los Angeles, Royal/T, The Warholian, September 24, 2010 – January 31, 2011

    • 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.

      View More Works

Property from a Private Collection, California


Nurses Dormitory #3

signed, titled and dated "Richard Prince 2003 NURSE'S DORMITORY #3" on the overlap
inkjet and acrylic on canvas
34 x 24 in. (86.4 x 61 cm)
Executed in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $1,482,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021