Richard Prince is an American painter and photographer with a Pop-Art style, renowned for his use of appropriated imagery using photographs taken from consumer culture. His work highlights the widespread acceptance of marketing rhetoric and challenges our perceptions of commercialism and consumerism. Prince has established himself as one of the foremost pioneers of appropriation in contemporary art, naming this genre ‘Rephotography’. He photographs, copies, scans and manipulates images from popular media, exploring ways in which generic images hold meaning and deconstructing popular advertising and commercial photography. His methods have led him to be known as part of the ‘Pictures Generation, alongside artists such as Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine.
Born in Panama in 1949, Prince attended Nasson College, a private liberal arts college in Maine. In 1973 he moved New York City, working for Time-Life in the Tear Sheet department, where he was responsible for clipping articles from magazines to distribute within the company. Left with piles of images and advertisements, he began to identify recurring themes through which he found artistic inspiration and began to painstakingly comb through pages of unwanted magazine advertisements, experimenting and reworking them to create redefined images from popular media. His famous ‘Cowboys’ series was pulled from Marlboro cigarette advertisements to create close-ups of mythical American cowboy figures, but he is probably best known for his ‘Nurse’ paintings, in which he transferred scanned covers of paperback romance novels onto canvas and painted over the prints to create the sexy nurse. Focusing on such clichés, he both celebrates and criticises these figures as popular stereotypes.
In 2014 he turned his attention to social media, when he unveiled his ‘New Portraits’ series: blown-up screenshots of Instagram selfies, printed on 6’ x 4’ canvases to which he added ‘Instagram comments’. The installation was shown in New York’s Gagosian Gallery in 2014 and subsequently received much media attention when pieces sold for $100,000 at the Frieze Art Fair.
Richard Prince’s artistic practices have courted controversy, leading to multiple lawsuits and fuelling fierce debates around copyright, intellectual property and theft within the art world but his legal standing is usually reinforced by his modifications of the original works – by removing iconic imagery from its context, Prince argues he can create new, more valuable art.
Richard Prince art is currently held in the collections of throughout the world, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Goetz Collection in Munich and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.