Richard Prince - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Monday, February 8, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Richard Prince appropriates images and text from mass media, advertising and entertainment. His works explore American subcultures and vernaculars, in order to investigate the role that they play in shaping American identity. He has pioneered in his artistic approach by challenging dominant concepts of ownership, authorship and the aura. Consumer driven imagery such as cars, fashion, sex, women and film are at the heart of Prince’s subject matter. Such is the case with Runaway Nurse, 2006, where Prince transforms our notion of the nurturing nurse into a stereotypical seductive healthcare professional. Similar to Warhol’s work, the artist entices his viewers to consider the processes behind the image-dominated culture and its manipulation.

    Prince began creating his Joke Paintings in 1985. The artist appropriated the jokes from various sources such as cartoons and joke books re-contextualising them within the realm of fine art. His earlier examples were hand-written, then silk-screened onto monochrome canvases, with no background or additional imagery. Likewise, paintings like Ed Ruscha’s, Sex, 1981 focused on the vernacular to show how words alone instantly assembles explicit images in one’s mind. What it Means, shows the progression of his Joke Painting series, as it includes a rich background of collaged images. While the previous works in the series mainly focused on the language, here the text is more difficult to decipher amidst the busy background of cropped pornographic images. The joke, originally meant to be read with attention becomes a pictorial and graphic composition. It reads: ‘Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who’ll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you are in the wrong house, that’s what.’ The joke is disconcerting to the viewer as one is confronted with lyrical adultery and sarcasm.

    Viewing What it Means, one can explore Prince’s cunning incorporation of both conceptual tactics and popular culture publications. He manages to produce an aesthetic on his own terms by creating works which function in contradictions. It is an art that is sarcastic yet honest, copied yet original, banal yet always striking, leaving a lasting impression upon the viewer.

  • 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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What it Means

collage and acrylic on canvas
203.8 x 304.8 cm (80 1/4 x 120 in.)

£500,000 - 700,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London

+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm