Richard Prince - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gladstone Gallery, New York
    Skarstedt Fine Art, New York
    Mitchell-Innes and Nash, New York
    Phillips de Pury, New York, Contemporary Art Part 1, 11 May 2006, lot 26
    McCabe Fine Art

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘When I first rephotographed an image I was simply trying to put something out there that was more natural looking than it was when I saw it as a photograph. I wanted a more genuine quality of the image and in order to get that and to return to what the image originally was, I decided to rework the photo the same way as it was first worked on. At that time I did not know anything about photography and this gave me a great deal of freedom. I think this would not occur to the real photographer. I did not consider myself as a photographer, I considered myself an artist.’ (Richard Prince interviewed by Noemi Smolik in Richard Prince Photographs 1977-1993, Hannover 1994, p.27)

    Extracting images from Marlboro cigarette adverts, Richard Prince began his most renowned series of works in 1980 entitled Cowboys. Removing all text and branding from the magazine cuttings he chose to rephotograph, Prince transformed these adverts into large works of art that still retain a grainy printed quality - only adding to their nostalgic charm. A distinct symbol of America, these majestic horse-riders became iconic symbols of patriotism and national pride where the free-spirited, virile cowboy powering through the Wild West became a focal point for traditional artists as well as Hollywood films, advertisements and popular culture. However, Prince became drawn to Marlboro’s adverts only once they had become redundant. The cowboy campaign had ceased to develop after commercials for smoking were restricted as a result of governmental censoring put in place for unhealthy products. Since this image was inextricably bound to this renowned cigarette brand, the representation of cowboys paradoxically became associated with disease and decay.

    Prince therefore, started assimilating images on this theme that would capture his imagination for over three decades. A wistful longing for a bygone age seems to come across in images such as Untitled (Cowboys). The lonesome cowboy with his 'trusty steed' already seem to be cast in exile as he is portrayed in a desolate rugged landscape. Prince’s method of rephotographing generates further colour contrasts thus accentuating the warm lighting. In this manner a Hollywood-style glow characterises many of these works. Pinkish tones and golden sunsets contrasted by blue lakes create a slightly saturated version of ‘reality’. Like a pleasant memory, these cowboys are seen through rose-tinted spectacles. On the other hand, this series of works could equally be seen as sardonic appropriations used to shatter a regressive stereotype as well as the deeply ingrained belief in the importance of artistic gesture that Prince almost completely eliminates from his works.

    The contrasting ideas brought to light in Prince’s Cowboys define them as some of his most fascinating works. Striking in its visual qualities as well as its thought-provoking seduction, the series is a prominent illustration of one of the most important stages in Prince’s career that not only encapsulates his personal creative developments, but equally the central aspects of the American culture these works were spawn from.

  • 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.

    View More Works

Property from the Estate of Dr. Fredric S. Brandt, Miami

Ο ◆4

Untitled (Cowboy)

Ektacolor photographic print
101.5 x 76.5 cm (39 7/8 x 30 1/8 in.)
Signed, numbered and dated 'R Prince I/II 1980-86' upper left border. This work number 1 from an edition of 2.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £602,500

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 14 October 2015 7pm