Richard Prince, Spiritual America IV, 2005
C-print in the artist's frame. 237.5 x 190.5 cm. (93 1/2 x 75 in). Signed and dated 'Richard Prince 2005' and numbered of two artist's proofs on the reverse. This work is from an edition of three plus two artist's proofs. Est. £400,000-600,000
PROVENANCE Gladstone Gallery, New York
EXHIBITED New York, Spiritual America Gallery, Spiritual America IV, May, 2005 (another example exhibited)
NOTE The present lot, a monumental photo-portrait entitled Spiritual America IV, is a recent collaborative work between the appropriation artist Richard Prince and the celebrity photographer Sante D'Orazio. Scantily clad in a string bikini and mired ankle deep in nitrogen fog, the famed American actress Brooke Shields seductively poses leaning on a Vengeance chopper- a re-visit of Richard Prince's most important and notorious works to date,Spiritual America from 1983. At the onset of his career, Prince, who was working for Time-Life magazine, appropriated advertising images for his own artistic oeuvre. In 1983, he encountered a photograph of the naked ten year old child actor taken by the commercial photographer Gary Gross. In 1975, Brooke Shields mother,Terrie, had paid $450 to have Gross represent her daughter as a heavily made up, androgynous seductress.The resulting risqué publicity shot would launch Brooke Shields' career by landing her a leading role in the 1978 hit film Pretty Baby in which she played a child raised in a brothel. In 1981,Terry Shields sued Gross to reclaim the publicity shot's copyright.The lawsuit, which would last four years and rule in favour of Gross, made headlines thereby inducing Richard Prince to make his most daring of ‘thefts.' He rephotographed Gross's image, set it in an elaborate gold frame and exhibited it anonymously in a non-commercial gallery in the depth of Mahattan's lower east side. Pertinently commenting on America's obsession with fame, Prince had captured, with a single click of the camera, one object depicting another object, all of which had been sparked by a mother treating her living child as an object.In true Princian fashion, the title is ‘stolen' from a 1923 Alfred Stieglitz photograph of a gelded workhorse, itself a bitterly ironic critique of America's puritanical ethos. Prince's photograph would go on to garner critical acclaim and be exhibited in museums worldwide while Gross could not even sell his original for a paltry $75. Gross famously sued Prince raising questions of authenticity and authorship, the exact themes which permeate the core of Richard Prince's artistic endeavor.The rest as they say is history,Spiritual America had launched Richard Prince's career with its impact on his oeuvre so deep that he gave the same title to his 2007 multi-museum retrospective. In a playful return to the image that made both Prince and Shields global superstars in their respective artistic fields, Prince exhibited Spiritual America IV in the same gallery on Rivington Street off the Bowery in Mahanttan's lowereast side. Although the 2005 Brooke Shields is clothed and a willing subject in Prince and D'Orazio's collaborative project, the present lot is as witty and rich in meaning as any work in Prince's copious oeuvre. Heavily layered in meaning, Spiritual America IV further complicates the already highly subversive nature of its predecessor.Tracing the levels of reference, appropriation, repurposing, and repositioning operating beneath the surface of the present lot requires a diligence on the part of the viewer seldom called for by any artist working today.That Prince manages to negotiate the sevying influences with humour, and retain a distinct element of biting cultural critique is still further evidence of the present lot as a prime expression of an artist working at the height of his powers. Ultimately, Richard Prince is once again having the last laugh at his critics who in 1983 accused him of being a sleazy pimp and an opportunist.
Philips de Pury & Company. Contempory Art Evenig Sale. Juen 29 2009 London. www.phillipsdepury.com