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>> Jeff Koons: Interview
>> A World Full of Multiples: Richard Prince
>> The Art of Shopping
>> Painting at a Rate of 150 Beats per Minute: Michel Majerus

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A World Full of Multiples:
Richard Prince’s Icons


Rock stars, Marlboro cowboys and tennis Lolitas – Richard Prince’s works feature the icons of mass culture. Prince appropriates their images by photographing and then manipulating them. But isn’t he just copying Warhol? Absolutely not, says Louise Gray and describes the American artist’s cool take on the myths of the consumerist society – and the abysses behind them.



Richard Prince, Untitled (Make-Up), 1982-84
©Richard Prince

Think for a moment about signatures: on cheques, documents and testaments. They are authoritative in their inky scrawls, a literary equivalent of the painter’s pinxit. They signify authorship, ownership, a voice that speaks. Now consider what autographs may be and you encounter a paradigm shift. Autographs and signatures may share a commonality — they are merely names — but that's where all similarity ends. As with holy relics, their significance lies in some register of the unreal. There is an assumption of integrity in the autograph; when it is disappointed, a kind of vengeance ensues. Recently, one British autograph dealer was found to be faking the signatures of the British soccer captain, David Beckham and his pop-star wife, Victoria, on material he was selling: a criminal prosecution was successful.


Richard Prince, Cameron Diaz, from the series "all the best, 2000
Deutsche Bank Collection
(c)Richard Prince


Richard Prince, Keanu Reeves, from the series "all the best", 2000
Deutsche Bank Collection
(c)Richard Prince


But autographs are coveted signatures; they are the mark of someone who is not always (but often) a celebrity. (It’s a curiosity of the modern fascination with celebrity that autograph books, once used for house guests and tender messages from school friends, hardly exist today.) Their brief words are a record of a moment that whoever — David Beckham, Cameron Diaz, Tupac Shakur — spent in the presence of someone who isn’t David Beckham, Cameron Diaz, or Tupac Shakur. But like so many graffiti (placed, let’s face it, by those who fantasise about celebrity and commanding respect), autographs are signatures without a text. In other words, it’s up to someone else to supply the meaning.


Richard Prince , Gwen Steferi, from the series "all the best",2000
Deutsche Bank Collection
(c)Richard Prince


Richard Prince, Kurt Cobain, from the series "all the best", 2000
Deutsche Bank Collection
(c)Richard Prince


Which is what makes Richard Prince’s All the Best (2000) series so interesting. Like its predecessors — for example, his Untitled (publicity) series (1999) — it is simple in its execution: Prince has selected photographs of various entertainment and sports personalities — Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain , Mike Tyson included — and autographed them. "All the best," they beam out to us in vapid greeting. Unlike that shifty London dealer in Beckhamabilia , there’s no way that Prince ever intended these signed fan photos to pass as the real thing: Cobain, for one, had been dead for six years at the time he autographed his picture. They were, however, part of a much larger project that concerns original identity in a culture of mass production. To put it simply: how can one be unique in a world of multiples?



Richard Prince, Untitled (Trix #2),1983 Edition of 2 + 1 AP
©Richard Prince

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