Richard Prince - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, October 5, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Skarstedt Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Skarstedt Gallery, Spring Group Show, 30 April - 30 May 2015

  • Catalogue Essay

    Immersing the viewer in his subversive and inappropriately witty realm of rehashed jokes, Untitled (Cartoon) is a critical example from Richard Prince’s controversial and celebrated oeuvre. From the outset, Prince has placed the relationship between image and language at the centre of his work, in particular the transgressive capability of the simple, lowbrow joke. The artist’s work advanced dramatically in the 1970s when he imaginatively embraced what would go on to define his artistic career; piracy. By appropriating photos or cartoons contrived to represent some form of the real world, Prince adopts a shrewd strategy that challenges the distinction between truth and fiction.

    Here, what would appear to be a facsimile of a one-line gag cartoon from The New Yorker Magazine is assumed and manipulated, pasted against a backdrop of newspaper print. Untitled (Cartoon) belongs to a body of works in which Prince copied hand drawn cartoons from The New Yorker and Playboy Magazine. Commenced in 1984 and initially created for the artist’s own amusement, these works were the absolute antithesis of the decidedly expressionistic paintings governing the New York art scene of the 1980s. Unlike his photographs, these studies reveal his masterful hand as an artist. Worked with crimson hues, the image is obscured and hidden beneath the artist’s bold illustration. Like advertising, cartoons reflect a certain collusion of cultural taste, desires and prejudices. Taking this as the foundation of his work, the artist deconstructs the images and exposes their artifice. In the present work, Prince focuses on a young, buxom lady with a man draped across her midriff as though caught and exposed in a moment of privacy. The words ‘turn off the lights?? Are you kiddin’ me??!!’ intermittently emerge from layers of thick, red scrawl. The couple’s image is reflected in mirrors surrounding the bed in tenfold, their own conduct shining right back at them. What emerges from this amalgamation of text and image is an uninhibited play of meaning to produce a work that is at once entertaining, erotic and also self-aware, metaphorical of Prince’s own relationship with pictures. In Untitled (Cartoon), the viewer is led along a witty narrative towards the concluding punch line, resulting in a humorous composition tinged with embarrassment or even self-recognition. Exemplary of Prince’s penchant for the provocative and his cynical, self-deprecating humour, the present work is simultaneously comical and menacingly accurate.

    What started as simple transferrals, handwritten jokes and redrawn cartoons on scraps of paper in the 1980s has become an irrefutable staple in Prince’s art. Indulging in his own, critical humour, Untitled (Cartoon) is a delightfully ingenious and unadulterated example of Prince’s reductive aesthetic and his ability to seamlessly combine images with punch lines that create mixed metaphors, complicated scenarios and Freudian slips.

  • 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


Untitled (Cartoon)

signed and dated 'Prince 2014' on the overlap
inkjet, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
76.5 x 63.7 cm (30 1/8 x 25 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2014.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £125,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 6 October 2017