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Richard Prince (b. 1956)
Richard Prince (b. 1956)
Richard Prince (b. 1956)
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Property from a Private American Collection
Richard Prince (b. 1956)

Navy Nurse

Details
Richard Prince (b. 1956) Navy Nurse signed, titled and dated 'R Prince. NAVY NURSE 2004'(on the overlap) inkjet and acrylic on canvas 76 x 54 ¼ in. (193 x 137.8 cm.) Executed in 2004.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 2007
Literature
R. Prince, 130 Nurses, New York, 2017, n.p. (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Wilmington, Delaware Art Museum, Exposed!—Revealing Sources in Contemporary Art, August-October 2009.
Special Notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Post-War & Contemporary Art

Lot Essay

As a standard bearer of early appropriation art in the 1980s, Richard Prince’s storied career has evolved from subject to subject while exploring the imagery and ideas of popular culture in an often provocative fashion. Culling from sources as varied as Instagram, advertisements for cigarettes, and the covers of pulp fiction paperbacks, the artist continuously mines contemporary image culture for an insight into what makes it so attractive, sensuous, and addictive. “Look at all the people today making things using sampled images,” notes curator Nancy Spector, “mashing up video clips and photographs in ways that feel incredibly common to us, no one does it like Richard. He changed art practice in the 20th century” (N. Spector, quoted in K. Crow, “Artist Richard Prince’s Secret Retreat,” WSJ Magazine, December 2014/January 2015). The artist’s Nurse paintings premiered in 2003 at Gladstone Gallery in New York, and critic David Rimanelli wrote in Artforum that they were: “Bloody, drippy splatter sampling of AbEx gesturalism,” and that “these sumptuous canvases were a return to form-smart, cheap, expensive, snide.” (D. Rimanelli, “Best of 2003,” Artforum, December 2003). Navy Nurse (2004), painted the year after the series’ debut, is a particularly sultry example of Prince’s nuanced mash-up of expressive brushwork and appropriated imagery that hovers between colorfield painting and copyright infringement.

Rendered in smoldering strokes of maroon, orange, and yellow accompanied by ashen washes of black and gray, Prince transforms his source material from a pulpy cover photograph into a moody portrait of the titular nurse. Her skin over-painted in peach tones and her uniform in blinding white, the woman is pulled from her original context as a lovelorn girl aboard a Navy ship and singled out as a fiery noir protagonist. Building upon extant imagery, the artist embellishes and enhances some elements while completely obliterating others. A man in the background of the source image is completely concealed by paint while the nurse’s eyes pierce the viewer’s gaze. Prince’s signature addition of a white mask keeps her identity hidden and places a visual barrier between the subject and the audience.

Besides the outlined title and central figure, only a few other aspects of the original book cover peer out from the dripping, pooling paint that Prince has applied to this enlargement. Among them, the author’s name, Virginia McCall, fades into Prince’s inky strokes above the figure’s head, while a block of text fights for visibility through her bleached uniform. The latter, the evocative subtitle of the original source, is barely discernible here through Prince’s emphatic brushwork and reads: “Two months aboard a troop transport tests Tracy’s future as a Navy nurse—and as a woman. ‘A good career story.’ (School Library Journal)” (V. McCall, Navy Nurse, Paperback Library, New York: 1969). The artist leaves his subject purposefully ambiguous by extracting the character from the text and transforming Tracy into a stereotype shrouded in dark tones.

First realized in 2003, Prince’s Nurse paintings draw from images of medical providers the artist encountered in newspapers covering the global SARS panic. These journalistic photographs got him thinking about the role these front-line workers play, and then segued into an intense survey of his own collection of pulp paperbacks. “With the Nurse paintings, I believe I started out just reading the paper. It just occurred to me that everyone needed a nurse,” Prince noted, “I collect books—basically I’m a bibliophile—and I had collected these nurse books. There’s a whole genre and I’d had them for years. I wanted to do something just white; […] But before I put them away, I made a mistake painting all this white— this is when I say I get lucky. After I had wiped off some of the painting, it looked like a mask on the nurse’s face and suddenly it was one of those moments. When I noticed that, I realized that was going to be the contribution to the image, to put a mask on these various nurse illustrations. It was a way of unifying and also talking about identity” (R. Prince, quoted in N. Shukur, “Richard Prince,” Russh Magazine, 2014). By obscuring each woman’s face with an overly large cloth covering, the artist negates their individuality and transforms them into a hyper-stylized symbol of the profession and an illustration of the generalized and sexualized idea of nurses in popular culture. With works like Navy Nurse, the photographic source is flattened with paint to further obfuscate the individual and create a cartoonish caricature separated from the real world. Of course, the very novels Prince uses as his starting point already romanticize and pulpify the nursing profession beyond its actual bounds, so the artist’s interventions serve as poignant highlights that question the mythos of these characters and their representation within American pop culture.

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