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  • Provenance

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    The University of Chicago, The Renaissance Society, Watery, Domestic, 17 November - 22 December, 2002

  • Catalogue Essay

    What Can You Do? completed in 2001, is a large-scale joke painting rendered on a smooth, powdery surface. The plush pastel hues employed in this present lot shy away from Prince’s more stark, monochromatic paintings from earlier in his career. This paint is the embodiment of a more advanced take on his joke theme, employing a wider range of colour. The Joke itself, sprawled across the entire width of the canvas, is stenciled in place with a conviction for design. It is through his recycling and perpetual repeating of jokes and other celebrated series such as Cowboys and Hoods, that Richard Prince came to his prominence in the 1980s, these works are central in challenging ideas of authorship and the value of the ‘unique’ artwork.
    “Like an advertisement, a recycled joke is essentially authorless, already out there in the world, available, just waiting to be repeated. It is the power of the joke to represent  the darker side of existence via comic relief that must have also appealed to Prince since humor- in its more sardonic forms- has played a central role in his art since the mid 1980s” (N. Spector, ‘Nowhere Man’ in Richard Prince: Spiritual America, New York, 2007) 
    “I’d been working 10 years and I still wasn’t known. So I wrote a joke in pencil on a piece of paper, and I’d invite people over and ask them, ‘Will you give me $10 for this?’ I knew I was into something-if someone else had done it I would have been jealous. You couldn’t speculate about it. So much of art depends on the critic as the umpire. With a joke there’s nothing to interpret.” (S. Daly, ‘Richard Prince’s Outside Streak’ in Vanity Fair, 2007)

  • 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 Can You Do?

Acrylic on canvas.
190.5 x 294.6 cm. (75 x 116 in).
Signed, titled and dated 'R. Prince 2001 What Can You Do?' on the overlap.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

18 Oct 2008, 7pm