Richard Prince published some thoughts on the art market last week that are worth reading. They’re both representative of a worldview that surely many artists share and singular in their being distinctly Prince’s:
I promised (and I’m not sure to who) I would never talk about the auctions. I have nothing to do with them. Why should I? It’s none of my business. Their deal is between the consignor and the new collector. The auction house is the middleman. It’s another “market”. Gold, bonds, futures, derivatives, energy, apps, start-ups, IPO’s, stocks, wine, watches, coins and stamps. Art has always had a market. But now there’s a ton of publicity around it and high in the sky skyboxes. Like all the other markets it’s a crapshoot. The house always wins.
I don’t make art to sell. I never have.
Do you think I would’ve made Three Men Looking In The Same Direction in 1977 if I thought about selling art?
Do you think I would’ve re-photographed a biker chick in 1984 if I thought about selling art?
Do you think I would’ve written a joke out on a piece of paper with a bic pen in 1986 if I thought about selling art?
When I first showed the “Cowboys” in 1984… not a single one sold.
When I first painted a nurse in 2001 I painted her all white. She was a ghost. You could hardly see her. I wrote down next to her all the fucked up things that can happen to you. Cancer. Gun shot. Diabetes. Kidney stones. Cleft palette. Dandruff. Bad breath. Broken arm. Cavities. Murder. Rape. Car bomb.
Deaf dumb and blind. All the shit things that can go wrong. It was about making a “wrong” painting and it ended up depressing me. I stopped. I put them away. Buried them in the racks. It wasn’t until two years later that I looked at one again and tried “washing” the nurse and a surgical mask formed on her face. Magic? Mistake? Not really. It was just “work”. That’s the way things happen when you work alone. One thing leads to another. And that was my way in. My contribution. The new white shape on her face was grace. (Everybody needs a nurse). With the addition of the “mask”, the image became more about painting and stopped being “wrong”. When I first showed them to a dealer in 2004, (nameless), they didn’t say a word, walked away, and asked me if I had any “cowboys” to sell.