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Richard Prince

American Painter, Photographer, and Sculptor

Richard Prince Photo
Movements and Styles: The Pictures Generation, Conceptual Art

Born: 1949 - Panama Canal Zone

"So sometimes it's better not to be successful and well known and you can get away with much more. I knew what I was stealing 30 years ago but it didn't matter because no one cared."

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Summary of Richard Prince

One of the most infamous appropriation artists, Richard Prince has employed a number of strategies to question the authorship and ownership of artistic imagery. By rephotographing, copying, scanning, and manipulating the work of others, he has crafted a technique of appropriation and provocation. Drawing his subjects from subcultures and cultural cliches, Prince also demonstrates how easily we accept marketing messages and stereotypes, and how dependent these icons are on the context in which they are presented. Stripped from their original environment, Prince makes the familiar seem strange, and invites the viewer to scrutinize that which is usually consumed in a quick glance.

Key Ideas

By reproducing the cliches of advertising and mass media in the gallery space, Prince forces the viewer to confront how these messages are fiction. Prince specifically chooses iconic cultural symbols, such as the lone cowboy or the sexy nurse, which he both celebrates and exposes as false constructions.
Prince's appropriation techniques have invited multiple lawsuits, with mixed results. His process of borrowing, sampling, or copying the work of others has forced a legal and artistic reconsideration of the rights of reproduction and the ownership of images.
Akin to Marcel Duchamp's readymade sculptures, which were "chosen" mass-produced objects made art by their context, Prince's appropriation of work by other artists has prompted new thinking about the limits of ownership. While his tactics are sometimes questionably legal, Prince has "chosen" artworks to reproduce, and has been able to circulate them despite the protests of the original artist or owner.
Prince's similar working methods of appropriation and mass-media sources soon brought him into the circle known as the "Pictures Generation." Alongside artists like Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine, who also explored the ways that generic images connoted meaning, Prince deconstructed the codes of advertising and commercial photography, revealing their repetitions and cliches.
Richard Prince Photo

Richard Prince was born in 1949 in the Panama Canal Zone, where his parents were stationed with the United States government. In an interview with the English author, J.G. Ballard, eighteen-year old Prince maintained that his parents worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner of the modern CIA; given Prince's love of hoaxes, however, and Ballard's later career as a renowned science fiction novelist, this claim is dubious at best. The family later relocated to Braintree, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. Growing up in the 1960s, he embraced the era's distinct counter-cultures, even attending Woodstock. Prince admits to exhibiting obsessive tendencies in his adolescence, such as rearranging his room multiple times and vacuuming his carpet into patterns.

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