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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Richard Prince
B.1949
MILLIONAIRE NURSE
signed, titled and dated 2002 on the overlap
inkjet print and acrylic on canvas
58 x 36 in. 147.3 x 91.4 cm.
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Provenance

Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in 2005)
Sotheby's, New York, May 14, 2008, Lot 7 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sotheby's, London, June 28, 2010, Lot 11 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above)

Exhibited

New York, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Richard Prince: Nurse Paintings, September - October 2003, p. 69, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

An absolutely archetypal example of Richard Prince’s celebrated corpus, Millionaire Nurse encapsulates the artist’s distinctive conceptual and aesthetic practice. Executed in 2002, this work was part of the original selection of Nurse Paintings that Prince exhibited at Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York in 2003. In these paintings, the masculine cowboy of the artist’s defining earlier series is replaced by a singular female protagonist: the paradigm of the eroticized nurse, a figure that pervaded popular culture in the mid-Twentieth Century as the inspiration for a string of much beloved 45-cent pulp fiction romances. Prince turned to his own extensive collection of racy paperback nurse fantasies, and culled his source images from their brightly colored and graphically alluring covers. Whilst he appropriated the compositional structure of his chosen covers, Prince’s Nurse Paintings marked a departure from the hijacked photographs and stenciled jokes that had been the cornerstones of his rise to artistic prominence in the 1980s. Each painting is rife with painterly expression and derives its own distinctive character from Prince’s calculated manipulation of his source. Striking in its chromatic intensity and provocative in its compositional form, Millionaire Nurse is a truly exceptional work from this seminal series.

The source image for the present work was the cover of the eponymous 1965 novel by Katherine Foreman, which Prince first scanned, and then enlarged and transferred onto canvas using an ink jet print, leaving a vestige of the anonymous facture that was the hallmark of his earlier oeuvre. After this initial act, however, Prince abandoned any notion of authorial anonymity and instead lavished the background of his canvas with the kind of unadulterated painterly release associated with his famed Abstract Expressionist forebears. Keeping the garish palette, yet radically altering the narrative of the book’s cover, Prince creates an entirely new and unique image in Millionaire Nurse. Through his layers of applied paint, all pictorial content aside from the body of the nurse and the blazing neon title are almost entirely erased, with only faint traces of the author’s name and the strap-line “Would her riches destroy her? – An exciting romance of medicine and high society” enigmatically remaining. A shadowy specter hovering to the left of the nurse takes the place of the male doctor who embraces her in the book’s cover art, and while her physical position is consistent with the source image, Prince has entirely obscured her radiant smile with a thick swathe of brushy white pigment reminiscent of a nurse’s mask. Nameless and unable to communicate, Prince’s central figure in Millionaire Nurse is laid bare for our complete and unabated visual possession. What once read as a tender exchange now abounds with a palpable sense of ominous foreboding.

Provocation and the disruption of his viewer’s preconceived definitions of what constitutes art have been the most consistent leitmotifs of Richard Prince’s decidedly diverse corpus. From the time that he first re-photographed Marlboro cigarette ads for his Cowboy series in 1983, Prince has expressed his artistic impulse through cultural quotation. Archetypes, be they cowboys or nurses, are his protagonists, and his use of them forges an unrelenting bond between his work and the cultural zeitgeist of his given moment. Like a modern day flâneur, Prince identifies the most revealing aspects and impulses of our modern society and reproduces them to the full extent of their seductive splendor.  The luscious fuchsia and gold surface of the present work is garishly appealing and the ultimate backdrop for the artist’s jarring portrayal of his central female figure. Like an advertisement meant to instantaneously excite and attract its viewer, Millionaire Nurse begs for us to relish in its sumptuous surface. It is only once we are thus engaged, however, that we begin to truly absorb the pictorial data of the canvas, and Prince’s interventions start to wrench us from the realm of placid consumption into one of pleasurable discomfort. It is this critical disjuncture that makes Richard Prince’s art so endlessly fascinating and Millionaire Nurse so absolute in its exemplification of his distinctive project. 

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York