Richard Prince - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Literature

    Rosetta Brooks, Jeff Sian and Luc Sante, Richard Prince, London, 2003, p. 25 (another example illustrated and erroneously dated 1999)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Richard Prince’s cowboys are among the most iconic examples of his prolific oeuvre. The present lot, an early work from 1989 is a unique artist’s proof aside from the artist’s small editioned series of luminously colored photographs, representing one of the artist’s early experimentations with appropriated imagery. Adapted from a Marlboro cigarette advertisement, the present lot depicts three quintessentially American cowboys in a receding row, looking off into the distance. They are dressed in patriotic garb, adorned in red, white, and blue, set against what is assumed to be a warm, sunny Western landscape. All three men are smiling in symmetrical, profile view, not one making direct eye contact with the camera. While the photograph is anything but candid, Prince’s choice of cropping at the brims of their hats and extending only to their upper torsos captures a split second in time that gives the essence of a genuine, American moment. As Prince has described, the cowboy pictures “were too good to be true. They were about wishful thinking, public pictures that happen to appear in the advertising sections of mass-market magazines… it was their look I was interested in. I wanted to represent the closest thing to real thing”. To achieve this level of reality, Prince has removed the text from the Marlboro advertisement, reframing the image in a way that rejects the obvious reappropriation of mass media sources, and instead elevates the source imagery to one that is seemingly original. The result is paradoxically comforting and disquieting, calling into question the meaning behind the staged smiles. It is “normalcy as special effect”, as Prince once explained, thus challenging the notions of Pop art begun by his predecessors, and elevating the nostalgic to the extraordinary. (Rosetta Brooks, "A Prince of Light or Darkness?", Richard Prince, London, 2003, p. 56)

  • 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



Untitled (Cowboy)

signed, numbered and dated "Richard Prince ap 1989" on the reverse; further signed, numbered and erroneously dated "Richard Prince ap 1988" on the reverse of the mat
Ektacolor print
image 23 x 18 1/4 in. (58.4 x 46.4 cm.)
sheet 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)

Executed in 1989, this work is artist's proof number 1 from an edition of 2 plus 1 artist's proof.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $370,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2017