The Bonhams 20th Century Decorative Arts auction in New York was topped by a stunning work by American glass artist William Morris.
|Untitled (Cowboy) is a chromogenic photographic work, produced in 1989 by Richard Prince. The 127 x 177.8 cm piece is acknowledged as an example of rephotography, reproducing an advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes.1
The work is one of a number from Prince’s Cowboys series, which were produced between 1980 and 1992. Its source material is taken from cigarette advertisements of the Marlboro Man.
For this work and many others Prince photographed magazine advertisements. In this case, it is an original Marlboro advertisement, which Prince has then blown up and stripped of its branding.
"Every week. I'd see one and be like, Oh that's mine, thank you," Prince said in an interview with New York.2
In an interview with ArtForum, he stated: "I had limited technical skills regarding the camera. Actually I had no skills. I played the camera. I used a cheap commercial lab to blow up the pictures. I made editions of two. I never went into a darkroom."3
Prince describes his method for this work as that of a deliberate amateur, offering distortions from the original.4
Prince told Art in America: "My limitations or mistakes become a kind of freedom. These mistakes always happen because I'm not a photographer. Practicing without a license is the way it's been referred to".5
The Metropolitan Museum of Art states that the work is: “A copy (the photograph) of a copy (the advertisement) of a myth (the cowboy),” adding: “Created in the fade-out of a decade devoted to materialism and illusion, Untitled (Cowboy) is, in the largest sense, a meditation on an entire culture's continuing attraction to spectacle over lived experience.”6
Prince’s method of rephotographing has polarised the art world, with many commentators unhappy that he is exploiting the work of other photographers. [Requires citation]
In an email interview following the sale of this work, Prince discussed his unpopularity with some of the photographic establishment: “I’ve heard that Peter Galassi hates my work. That he would never acknowledge it in the photo department at MoMA. I think he’s wrong. I think my photo work is all about photography.”7
The work sold for $1.25 million at Christie’s New York in November 2005, making it one of the world's most expensive photographs. It was the first rephotograph to raise more than $1 million at auction.
It sold for $3.34m at a Sotheby’s auction in February 2007.
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