Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Richard Prince: Photographs, December 8, 2001 - February 24, 2002

  • Literature

    C. Haenlein, Richard Prince: Photographs 1977 - 1993, Hanover, 1994, pp. 40 - 41 (illustrated); Museum für Gegenwartskunst, ed., Richard Prince: Photographs, Basel, 2002, pp. 52-53 (illustrated); Rosetta Brooks, ed., Richard Prince, London, 2003, pp. 46-47 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Richard Prince is best known for reinventing images from Pop Culture’s omnipresent world of advertising. His experience in the magazine world in the mid-seventies surrounded him with the glossy and alluring, repetitive and seductive prints that saturated the world’s journals and periodicals. The prevalent and pervasive images of American heroes and starlets aroused his interest and propelled him to question the images’ limitations and potential. He slowly began to appropriate the familiar images, bathing them in new light and commencing an entirely new discourse on media. The marketing of the Marlborough Man and the Hollywood stars fascinated him and he uncovered and revealed the marketing strategies pushing the icons, exposing their solitude and only purpose as entertainer in an industry obsessed with performance.
    To the hurried viewer, Prince’s alterations and appropriations are undetectable, but there is in fact a dramatic and crucial transformation. He was an editor, selecting the images carefully to be re-photographed. The transformations created strange effects, ranging from softened clarity to magnified ambiguity. Once this stage was complete, he turned the images into framed art work, displacing them from their original pages of a magazine, and thus, entirely reinventing them. Lastly, he paired the images in a serial fashion, demanding a kind of narrative to follow along the frames. Serial images serve as a kind of drill, reminding the viewer over and over again of its stereotype and truths. Prince created an archive of sameness, “By approximating the look of commercial photography, reproducing the process by which the images were originally produced—directing, manipulating, and retouching pictures that had already been subjected to these adjustments—Prince functions as a simulator, exposing the artifice that has invaded out sense of reality.” (L. Phillips, “People Keep Asking: An Introduction,” Richard Prince, New York, 1992)
    In the present lot, Untitled (four women with their backs to the camera), 1980, four mystifying women deny us access to their faces, their character, their person. This work is an antithesis to the others produced in this series, which reveal the women’s faces, or their hands, their hats, and their gloves. This lot is Richard Prince’s raison d’être, his conclusion to mass media and its exploitive nature. The women turn in protest, refusing to be revealed and exposed, denying stereotypes and “sameness,” ultimately claiming their autonomy. The present lot is not only emblematic of Prince’s work, but it is a greater statement on the principle which he is exposing. These women do not want to be photographed. They are not objects which can be serialized like a mass produced item on a shelf. Richard Prince takes the mission of Pop Art, blurring the line between consumer object and fine art, to a new level, revealing a never before considered layer of political and social consciousness and reality.
    This lot is a counter-statement to the Pop Art movement that made icons out of faces. The four women who turn their backs could be the protests of Warhol’s Liz, Jackie, Liza, and Marilyn. Warhol’s greatness was marked by his mission to expose the caricatures culture created out of real people. Prince activates a return to the exact reality Warhol blurred. The images compel us to consider the mechanics by which they were produced and the incentive of the image-dominant culture in which they exist. Suddenly our relationship to stereotyped images of the everyday comes into focus. “I think art is one of the real things to me, because it is one of the few things that make me feel good. It is something I can exchange my life for. And it allows me to share experiences. It suggests a way of continuity, too. It was done in the past and it is still alive. That’s why I do not ask myself how real my life is. But how real is my art, that is the question.” (Richard Prince interviewed by Noemi Smolik, 1994).

  • 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 (four women with their backs to the camera)


Set of four Ektacolor photographs.

20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm) each.

This work is from an edition of ten and numbered of ten on a label adhered to the reverse of each frame.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

12 Nov 2009
New York