Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 12, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York; Giraud Pissarro Segalot, New York/Paris

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I found the subject matter, which was the jokes. Before that, I wanted to paint but I didn't know what to paint. The subject comes first, the medium second. … They're just paint, stretchers, and canvas; it's the subject that's radical." ('R. Prince interviwed by K. Rosenberg', New York Magazine, May 2, 2005)

    From the late 1970s, Prince began a practice of culling images and quotes from popular culture, painting textual jokes against found background images, mined from all aspects of American culture, from comic strips to advertisements. Alongside other artists like Cindy Sherman, Jack Goldstein and Sherrie Levine, Prince challenged ideas of originality and authorship by re-contextualizing pop cultural images. The Five Chairs relates to these quintessential Prince appropriations, but it is part of a later body of work in which Prince turned from photography to painting, taking inspiration from slightly different sources which bear traces of American painting of the 1950s. The chairs of the title are sketchy and smudged, each piece of furniture ringed by what could be a large thumbprint or coffee stain. The dirty graphic style of the work evokes Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston or Cy Twombly, figureheads of mid-century Abstract Expressionism. By juxtaposing the hurriedly drawn chairs alongside an apparently random and unrelated quote, Prince decontextualizes both components of the painting resulting in a work that is surprising and ironic.

    "There is no double meaning, no reading of the text's 'spirit.' The quote, the sentence, the joke are truly abstract, just as one sometimes refers to abstract paintings as 'concrete' painting: they represent nothing other than themselves. They are not a sign for something that is absent, like the word "journal" in cubist paintings. Here, the text is the real thing. The jokes, or quotes, are facts—not representations….These facts (images, words, all that is seen and heard) have no less reality than brute nature. His art is an art of the real, or rather of the 'almost real.' "( V. Pecoil, Richard Prince: Canaries in the Coal Mine, Oslo, 2007, p. 130)

    In Five Chairs the joke is about a funeral, and mimics the all-too-well-known format of a "minister, rabbi, and priest" joke, but beyond this cultural touchstone of humor, the painting is not about the joke itself. Asked whether he comes up with his jokes himself, Prince responded with characteristic humor:

    "None of them are mine. I get them from magazines, books, the internet. Sometimes from the inside of a bank. You know they're just like blueprints that float around the sky and show up on a cloud. Sometimes I buy them from other criminals. People tell them to me. Ministers. Rabbis. Priests. Once I saw one in the washing machine spinning around getting clean." (Richard Prince in Modern Painters, Vol. 15, No. 3, Autumn 2002)

  • 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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The Five Chairs

Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas.
111 1/4 x 116 1/8 in. (282.6 x 295 cm).

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £240,000

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Evening Sale
13 October 2007, 4pm