Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Richard Prince’s Joke Paintings have remained a constant high point within the artist’s output for over two decades. Most of Prince’s earlier Jokes feature lettering in a single solid color against a contrasting single-color ground, with little to no supplemental imagery or ornamentation. The present lot demonstrates the evolution of Prince’s series, as it includes a new style of lettering and a complex and intricate backdrop for his text. Whereas in many of Prince’s other paintings the lettering was the obvious focus of the work, here the words are slightly more diffcult to pick out against the busy background. The lettering is also constrained within a rectangular shape in the center of the canvas rather than extended across its entire width. It seems that Prince has intensifed “a carefully constructed hybrid that is also some kind of joke, charged by conficting notions of high, low and lower.” (R. Smith, The New York Times, September 28, 2007).

    The work is visually lush, utilizing both acrylic and collage. The centered block letters read, in eleven rows, “Last night I ordered a whole meal in French. Even the waiter was surprised. I was in a Chinese restaurant.” The background is a storm of orange, green, and blue streaks, layered on the painting’s collage element: vintage cowboy novel covers, a subject of his voracious collecting that has made its way into his art making practice. “I don’t see any difference now between what I collect and what I make. It’s become the same. What I’m collecting will, a lot of times, end up in my work.” (K. Rosenberg, “Richard Prince”, New York Magazine, May 2, 2005).

    Clearly referencing and building upon Prince’s own body of work by returning to the original inspiration for many of his other paintings yet approaching it in a new way; Untitled, 2010 is a fusion of his previous artistic stylings. Interestingly, the joke printed across the present lot isentirely unrelated to the subject of cowboys, and thus the viewer might be left wondering what the connection is between the subject and its background. Perhaps there exists a fabulously esoteric answer to this riddle. Or, perhaps, Prince looks to make a joke out of the viewer’s confusion. As he is quoted above, Prince is very honest concerning the roots of his painterly subjects. If what he has collected also amounts to the oeuvre he has amassed, perhaps it’s simply natural for one piece to pratfall over another.

  • 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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collage and acrylic on canvas
64 x 55 in. (162.6 x 139.7 cm)
Signed and dated "R Prince 2010" on the reverse.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $542,500

Contemporary Art Day Sale

16 November 2012
New York