Richard Prince - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, November 13, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sadie Coles HQ, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Sadie Coles HQ, Richard Prince: Free Love, April 12 - June 18, 2016, no. 12, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Richard collected some nudist cartoons by this guy John Dempsey. He inked jetted them up and drew a kind of hippie cartoon… kind of like his hippie drawings that he did back in the late eighties. He turned the nudist cartoon into something about free love. Richard always wanted to be part of a commune, but he knew that kind of utopia would never work out. At least that’s what he told me. He figured it was a good idea, the commune… but in the end… he ended up painting the commune. - Joan Katz

    As detailed in the above excerpt by Joan Katz, a close friend of Prince’s since 1989, Free Love #233 belongs to a recent body of work in which the artist fuses different elements from many of his earlier, acclaimed series, including his Hippie Drawings, Jokes, and Cartoons. The background of the composition is a reproduction of a Playboy magazine cartoon, enlarged to life size and rendered in full color. Prince then overlays the cartoon with a bold quasi-abstract figure, in the style of his widely recognizable Hippie Drawings from the late 1980s that pay homage to modernist masters like Picasso and de Kooning. The painted figure obscures the cartoon with its elongated arms and oversized hands, while its vivid yellow hue enhances the composition with a joyful overtone only heightened by the figure’s wide, laughing smile. Carefully selected gaps in the hippie’s reach reveal candid moments in the original source material. In the upper left, an embracing couple seems more loving than obscene. On the lower right, the original cartoonist’s signature is revealed, but overlaid with a spiral line - Prince's way of adding his own mark. His decision to incorporate an abstract shape rather than an identifiable signature is typical of the artist’s irreverent questioning of traditional notions of authorship. As Prince himself writes: “You can take my work and do anything you want with it. I will not object… What’s genuine anyway?” (Richard Prince, quoted in “Rock Lobster: October 20”, Birdtalk, 2017, online)

    Another hallmark feature of Prince’s practice highlighted in this body of work is his iconic use of text, also appropriated and often humorous. In a nod to his Joke paintings, the lower section of the canvas includes a caption that reads: “Can’t you find a shady nook somewhere else, Mr. Martinez?” The question is presumably posed by the woman sitting in the foreground of the busy outdoor scene whose lap cradles the head of a mustache-bearing man--the shade she references is cast by her sizeable bosom. The man’s position is surprisingly unsexual and almost fetal in nature, further emphasized by his peaceful face and gently closed eyes. This intimate position, in stark contrast with the formality in which she addresses the gentleman, creates an unsettling mood paramount to the cheeky nature of Prince’s works.

    Many of these subtle details would likely have gone unnoticed in the original cartoon, as both the scale and the context of a magazine promote casual skimming rather than detailed analysis. However, through his particular style of appropriation, Prince redefines the source material, blurring the lines between social codes, destabilizing hierarchies, and opening up a new world of free love.

  • 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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Property from a Private Collector


Free Love #233

signed, partially titled and dated "Richard Prince 2015 #233" on the overlap
inkjet, acrylic and oilstick on canvas
74 3/8 x 54 3/4 in. (189 x 139 cm.)
Executed in 2015.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $471,000

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018