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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Rome

  • Exhibited

    Rome, Gagosian Gallery, Made in Italy, 27 May - 29 July 2011

  • Literature

    Gagosian Gallery, Made in Italy, Rome, 2011, p.111 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I had all these ‘After Dark’ books in my library and what I liked about them was, aside from the suggestion of what that actually means, the books had been written in all these different cities that I would find. I tried to hunt them down and every country seemed to have an ‘After Dark’ book. I liked the little text that went with it and I liked the font.” RICHARD PRINCE

    Richard Prince has long been hailed as the preeminent appropriator of mass-media, subverting norms and preconceived notions into more complex narrative structures. Renowned for his series Cowboys, Nurses and Jokes, Prince’s explorations of American pop culture are meditations on themes and concepts that stretch the boundaries of
    original subject matter. Stemming from mid-Twentieth Century covers of pulp fiction paperbacks, the artist created his series of After Dark paintings by plucking titles from the dusty shelves of vintage and second-hand bookstores, resuscitating the kitschy nature of cover art with unabashed fervor.

    The present lot, Untitled (Rome After Dark), 2003, is based on the original cover from a novel by Roberto Orsi, published by MacFadden Books in 1962. It is with this carefully selected title in mind that Prince continues his observation of Western pop culture. Fusing pulp fiction with the romanticism of Rome, the promise of exoticism and "La Dolce Vita", Prince obscures everything from the book cover except the text, effacing the female figure that would otherwise confidently meet our gaze. In this way, the artist proposes the idea of a woman instead of a specific character; one provocatively drawn from the sixties at the dawn of the sexual revolution, one whose confidence transcends the pages of a paperback novel.

    As with his Nurse paintings, Richard Prince evokes freshly retro and shockingly wanton portraits of femme fatales. Subjects become liberated and energized through Prince’s famed practice; appropriating images from pop-cultural ephemera. A bibliophile and avid collector of first-edition 1950s and 1960s medical pulp fiction, Prince first scans the evocative and kitschy book jackets and then transfers the enlarged inkjet print to canvas. Once the imagery has been properly oriented and cropped, the artist applies sweeping layers of paint, veiling his surface in a colour-field of lush and vivid pigments. Indeed, with such an obscured background, we are left with very little evidence of Prince’s source material. Below the title, almost completely concealed by expressive strokes of warm pink, yellow and orange is the tag-line for Orsi’s story: “‘La Dolce Vita’ showed what it could but here are the facts it dared not reveal….” To the left of the canvas, beneath the transparencies of layered paint, we detect further promise of the narrative ahead: “They’re all there, They’re all ready, willing and very much available in ROME AFTER DARK.” Prince reveals and obscures his subject, imbuing the canvas with aura of anticipation, promiscuity and sensuality.

    Untitled (Rome After Dark), like Prince’s rugged and roaming cowboys, evokes a sense of exploration and inhibition unveiled through nightlife. Basing his After Dark series on travel books, the artist inspires the great tradition of traveling abroad, stemming from the Grand Tours of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Taking on this subject is a means of participating in a right of passage, engaging with a lineage of artists from Albrecht Dürer to Andy Warhol. Inspiring some of his most acclaimed paintings and drawings, Cy Twombly’s love affair with Rome resonates with particular vigour, echoed in Prince’s spontaneous painterly gestures vibrant use of colour, Twombly had traveled extensively throughout Italy; evidenced in the titles of his series inspired by cities like Rome and Bolsena. It is perhaps for these reasons that the present lot was included in Gagosian Gallery’s 2011 exhibition Made in Italy, boasting a roster of seminal artists as much as “the Italian experience from its unrivaled art-historical wealth to the kaleidoscopic quality of daily life.” (Gagosian Gallery Rome, Press Release, Made in Italy, 2001)

    Presenting us with a renewed sense of explorative desire and the reaffirmation of one’s own potential of self-discovery, Untitled (Rome After Dark) expresses verve as much as it suggests fantasy. Thus, the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Richard Prince, a pairing of expectation and reinvention. Untitled (Rome After Dark), marks the beginning of the collaboration between the artist and the legendary fashion house. Emphasizing a fantasy and journey, the design brand’s creative director Marc Jacobs stated in an interview that after he had asked Prince to collaborate with him, Prince started to look for cheap paperbacks that were set in exotic cities with ‘after dark’ in the title. As Jacobs put it, “[Prince] asked me, what about Louis Vuitton after dark?” (N.Skukur, “Interview with Richard Prince,” Russh Magazine, 2010).

    Heralding art, fashion and exoticism, Richard Prince was invited once more by Louis Vuitton to create one of Hong Kong’s first public art installations, essentially packaging the exterior of a landmark, the Hong Kong Museum of Art in celebration of the city’s annual French May Arts Festival and the 2009 exhibition Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation. The museum was wrapped with a monumental patchwork of replicas of the pulp-fiction novels that inspired the artist’s series, the cover of Rome After Dark being one of them. Prince’s involvement the ubiquitous brand reveals a continuum of the artist’s investigation of spectacle, conflating hi and low artforms. However, underlying this conflation that drapes museums, models and canvas is a narrative of deviant flirtation. Prince summons the fetishization and commodification of corruption and rebellion in a seemingly calculated plunge into the depths of our collective psyche.

  • 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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Untitled (Rome After Dark)

inkjet and acrylic on canvas
137.5 x 172.9 cm. (54 1/8 x 68 1/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'Prince 2007-08' on the reverse.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £164,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013