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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York

  • Literature

    N. Spector, Richard Prince, Germany, 2007, p. 158 (illustrated)
    H. Cantz, Richard Prince Photographs, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002, p. 137 (illustrated), p. 159 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ It wasn’t my reality, but it can become your reality when you start to possess it.” RICHARD PRINCE

    Untitled (Girlfriend),
    from 1993, is a provocative work by the artist Richard Prince. A true portraitist, Prince is revered as one of the most challenging, prolific contemporary artists of his generation. In his Girlfriends series, Prince astutely dissects reality, his shrewd vision transforms, vitally repositioning images and instilling in them forceful identity. The artist powerfully revitalises his subject, giving prominence to the overlooked. Prince’s fragmented portraits of women scrutinize issues of gender and the manifestations of culture. Prince’s ‘girlfriends’ have been selected, re-photographed and cropped by the artist. The process of being cut from their original crowded magazine pages and placed in the sphere of art raises a fascinating discussion. Untitled (Girlfriend) is derived from the once popular imagery in American biker magazines such as Easy-riders and Iron Horse. As the artist himself suggests, “I like the idea o trying to present work that’s factual, that’s based in reality, even though it’s still somewhat unbelievable. I don’t particularly like to make things up and I don’t particularly like to get too creative” (in N. Skukur, ‘Interview with Richard Prince’, Russh Magazine, 2010).

    The present lot depicts a young, semi-nude woman posing on the back of a motorcycle. The powerful comment which the image construes would certainly have been overlooked in its original context. In Prince’s work, the marginalised is upheld and in transcending its background, the artist irreversibly alters the image’s relevance. By placing Untitled (Girlfriend) within the context of art, Prince lends resonance and meaning to a once anonymous portrait. Consequently, in the Girlfriends series, every photographic fault, such as a grainy lack of focus or saturated light, becomes a vital element contributing to the work. Prince’s constructions artfully emphasize their bad colour, bad lighting and stiff poses. Fundamentally the subjects, the ‘girlfriends’, have advanced from their amateur posing as objectified possessions alongside the men’s motorbikes. Just as the Cowboys series produced by Prince a decade earlier embodies an iconic representation of American masculinity, Untitled (Girlfriend) marks a reversal of this message. Whereas the ‘cowboys’ were costumed, choreographed and photographed by advertising professionals, the ‘girlfriends’ were set up by their boyfriends.

    Richard Prince suggested of his work, “I think many of these pictures have their own egos and they have an imagination of their own. That’s my own particular reaction. I also think the biker chick is perhaps a more realistic representation that the Grace Kelly girlnext- door. I mean, the biker chicks are the girls next door” (quoted in B. Wallis, ‘A Conversation with Richard Prince’, Art in America 81, November 1993).

  • 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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17

Untitled (Girlfriend)

1993
Ektacolour print
152.4 × 101.6 cm (60 × 40 in)
Signed, dated, and numbered ‘Prince 1993 ap’ on the reverse. This work is the artist’s proof aside from the edition of two.

Estimate
£220,000 - 280,000 

Sold for £223,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012
London