Richard Prince (b. 1949)
Richard Prince (b. 1949)

Spiritual America

Richard Prince (b. 1949)
Prince, R.
Spiritual America
color coupler print
24 x 20in. (61 x 50.8cm.)
Executed in 1983. This work is number ten from an edition of ten and is accompanied by a photo-certificate signed by the artist.
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
ZG The Body, Spring 1984, p. 1, no. 10 (illustrated).
Wolkenkratzer Art Journal, March/April 1988, no. 2 (illustrated on cover).
R. Prince, Photographs 1977-1993, Hannover 1994 (illustrated pl. 15). "Richard Prince-Spiritual America", Richardson, issue A1, 1998, p. 63 (illustrated).
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Ars Pro Domo, May-August 1992, p. 238 (illustrated; another print exhibited).
Ludwig Forum fr Internationale Kunst, Dirty Data, June-August 1992, p. 75 (illustrated; another print exhibited). New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Dusseldorf, Kunstverein; San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art; and Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Richard Prince, May 1992-November 1993, p. 86 (illustrated; another print exhibited).
Munich, Kunstverein; and Hamburg, Kunsthaus, Someone Else with my Fingerprints, April-July 1998, p. 75 (illustrated; another print exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Fame After Photograph, July-October 1999 (another print exhibited).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The American Century-Art & Culture 1950-2000, September 1999-February 2000, p. 285 (illustrated; another print exhibited).

Lot Essay

In 1977 Richard Prince began re-photographing images of models and luxurious items that he found in magazine advertisements. A forerunner of 1980s' "appropriation art", Prince sought to expose the artifice of marketing imagery. "Most of what's passing for information right now is total fiction," remarks Prince. "I try to turn the lie back on itself." Nonetheless, Prince acknowledges his reliance on "stealing" imagery, and in 1983 he tempted the limits of criminality by exhibiting (anonymously) a re-photographed picture of Brooke Shields nude as a child.

As described by Rosetta Brooks: "In the foreground and background are two sculpted figurines. The background figure suggests grace, sensuality, femininity, freedom. In the foreground is a reclining figure. The head is lowered, suggesting dejection, world-weariness, self-enclosure, depression. An image of a child's body in the familiar flesh colors of a pornographic picture appears out of the monochromatic self-enclosed world. It is Brooke Shields. She appears otherworldly, as though she were somehow occupying a celestial realm.The pose she adopts is a combination of coyness and availability, awkwardness and knowingness, exposure and concealment. Like most pedophiliac representations, the child is made to adopt a deliberately inflexible, artificially aesthetic posture." (Brooks in Phillips, p. 88)

The photograph was exhibited in a gilt frame--all alone--in a temporary gallery named "Spiritual America" located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The public uproar was substantial, not only due to the illicit subject matter but also because Prince chose to exhibit the photograph while Shields' mother-manager Terri and the original photographer (Garry Gross) were in court over the picture's ownership rights. Seizing on media-hype, Prince's Spiritual America drew a crowd whose intentions were far more voyeuristic than artistic, revealing the inestimable power of desire in consumer culture.

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