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Hoo doggies, but is it art?
November 10, 2005 8:04 AM   Subscribe

The world's most expensive photocopy. An untitled cowboy photograph by Richard Prince set a record last night for the most expensive photograph sold at auction, with a price of $1,248,000. The catch? It's a re-photograph of pre-existing Marlboro ad.
posted by Robot Johnny (62 comments total)

 
Also, be sure to listen to the audio commentary on the Christie's link.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:06 AM on November 10, 2005


Could one not pick up a copy of the magazine at a junk store and tear out the page themselves?

Has the artist modified or enhanced the image somehow?

I'm stoopid. There must be something I'm not understanding here.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:19 AM on November 10, 2005


That's perhaps the most retarded thing I've ever heard of. Some guy takes a picture of a magazine ad and it sells for 1.2 mil. Un-be-f*&#ing-lievable.
posted by JeffK at 8:32 AM on November 10, 2005


Audio: ...a classic work from the first generation of cowboys that richard made. The cowboy works are always rephotographed and mainly rephotographed from Marlboro cigarette ads.

They contain within them a kind of... sensory detail that the viewer seems to know instantly comes from another source. And of course, Marlboro ads are perfectly ubiquitous. Most people in the world probably would recognize them.

When you see them rephotographed, blown up in a larger scale, there is something in your collective memory that triggers "I was sold this once, this was something that I've been sold before" (laughing)


Yeah, I'd be laughing too. All the way to the bank.

Thanks for the link, Robot Johnny.
posted by prostyle at 8:36 AM on November 10, 2005


He also photgraphs pictures in newspapers. To each their own I guess...
posted by Eekacat at 8:37 AM on November 10, 2005


Wow... there really is a sucker born every minute. I'm just annoyed that this sucker was financially sucessful enough to throw away 1.2 million dollars, when I could never in my life afford to be so completely foolish.
posted by jonson at 8:41 AM on November 10, 2005


I wish the artist had gotten the money, even if the art seems a bit contrived, than some anonymous seller.
posted by OmieWise at 8:44 AM on November 10, 2005


Is this an appropriate spot for

1. Take photo of old ad
2. ????
3. PROFIT


People really have an unhealthy associate with cowboys.
posted by edgeways at 8:44 AM on November 10, 2005


Once my associate left the cowboys, he started feeling better.
posted by bachelor#3 at 8:50 AM on November 10, 2005


edgeways : Is this an appropriate spot for

1. Take photo of old ad
2. ????
3. PROFIT


Step 2: Sell photo at auction to fool with too much money and not enough sense
posted by Godbert at 8:51 AM on November 10, 2005


How about the photographer that took the original photo. Isn't there a copyright violation of some sort here. Or did Prince take the original photo, too. If I started taking photos of magazine ads and selling them I'm sure someone would be after me before long.
posted by waltb555 at 8:54 AM on November 10, 2005


If I started taking photos of magazine ads and selling them I'm sure someone would be after me before long.

Just take a photo of this photo. If anyone comes after you refer them to Prince. And if he comes after you, laugh.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2005


Ha, I've just taken a screencap from the Christies website thus taking the "artistic" process and the price to the next level.
Offers anyone?
posted by Joeforking at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2005


I just did a right-click "Save image as..." of the re-photograph of the photograph of the Marlboro ad from the Christie's site and now have in my possession 1 (one only) image called "prince.jpg" available for auction.

To the successful bidder, this fine work can be yours to have and to hold on your hard drive. Though ethreal in such intangible form, you will indeed feel like you've been sold something and how.

Who will begin the bidding? Do I hear $5?

On preview, drat you in the back. Yes, you Joeforking!
posted by hal9k at 9:09 AM on November 10, 2005


Godbert: If only that were so, sadly it's usually more like:

2: Sell photo at your gallery to a collector for a relatively reasonable sum of which you get 50%.

2a: Watch as collector holds your work for many years.

2b: [Optional: Useful for many artists, though not required for Prince] Die.

3: [Collector gets all of the] PROFIT [and you get none.]
posted by The Bellman at 9:10 AM on November 10, 2005


Richard Prince is the new ebaum.
posted by Potsy at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2005


Philistines. All of you.

When I hear people bashing modern art, the main sentiment I hear is, "Yeah, but I could've done that."

Well, guess what? You didn't, so suck it. Come up with an idea someone hasn't had the balls to do.
posted by piratebowling at 9:17 AM on November 10, 2005


That's prebaum.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:18 AM on November 10, 2005


Sherry
Levine would be rolling in her grave, if she were dead.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:21 AM on November 10, 2005


See, beelzbuba, I think they're going for similar messages. Sure, Sherry Levine's stuff has more of a feminist swing to it, but I feel the spirit is similar.
posted by piratebowling at 9:25 AM on November 10, 2005


piratebowling: I would have trouble living with a clear conscience if I were as big a scammer as we're talking about here. Ethics, not balls.
posted by Potsy at 9:55 AM on November 10, 2005


Another half-assed riff on Duchamp's Fountain... sigh..

Ok art world, we get it.. because an artist conceived, or arranged it it's art - very clever... now can we move on please?

How about something, you know, new?
posted by stumcg at 10:01 AM on November 10, 2005


An edition of two? Why bother?
posted by smackfu at 10:04 AM on November 10, 2005


2 x 1.2 million reasons smackfu
posted by stumcg at 10:09 AM on November 10, 2005


I'm currently selling a printout of Prince's photograph. This original work that I have authored updates the feelings that Prince's masterpiece has evoked with notions from the digital age. The viewer is transported both into the age of the cowboy and into our digital world at once. Also, I was eating a piece of celery at the time to remind the viewer of the plight of today's grocery clerks, that is, the modern day cowboy.

Bidding starts at 2.2 million dollars.
posted by about_time at 10:11 AM on November 10, 2005


Another half-assed riff on Duchamp's Fountain... sigh..

Indeed. That this re-photograph ("readymade"?) exists is one thing, that it's considered art is another, but what really takes the cake (IHMO) is that it set an auction sales record. Talk about absurd ways to spend your money...
posted by May Kasahara at 10:14 AM on November 10, 2005


I was talking to someone last night and we were discussing how Prince was able to do this and not get caught up in an IP lawsuit. Either Marlboro or the photographer who made the original image must own the copyright and I would think they'd defend the copyright in court. Anyone have any guess how this can fly?

Also, silly me, I was dumb enough to think I could make money by making original photos - who knew there was money in shooting what's already shot?!
posted by photoslob at 10:14 AM on November 10, 2005


Conceptual art not your bag? Okay then, but the work is no scam, the value goes beyond being clever and the buyers are not suckers. You don't apply the same value? Okay.

To address CynicalKnight's question, the transformation appears to be size, nature of the print and then, of course, the presentation of something familiar in unfamiliar fashion. Note the image technique and size: what do you suppose was the original size of this image as croped from the advertisement?

I'd like to see some of these up close and personal. (But then I have a softspot for Marlboro man ads. They were a central feature in my master's thesis project.)
posted by Dick Paris at 10:17 AM on November 10, 2005


I'm currently selling a printout of Prince's photograph. This original work that I have authored updates the feelings that Prince's masterpiece has evoked with notions from the digital age.

I am currently selling the concept of printing this out 2.2 million times and selling each print for a dollar each, as a statement on the commodification and mass production of art in the digital age. I will sell the rights to this concept to only 10 people. Bidding starts at $300,000 each.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:18 AM on November 10, 2005


Philistines. All of you.

Indeed.

I thought I'd fell asleep and woke up reading the Daily Mail.

Have we had:

- A child of six could do that
- A monkey could do that
- The emperor has no clothes

comments yet? If not, consider this my bid for all three.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:20 AM on November 10, 2005


I think its a bargin. Richard Prince is one of the best artists working in the US.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2005


Philistines. All of you.

Indeed.

I thought I'd fell asleep and woke up reading the Daily Mail.

Have we had:

- A child of six could do that
- A monkey could do that
- The emperor has no clothes

comments yet? If not, consider this my bid for all three.

COPYRIGHT 2005 P.S.TAIL WORLDWIDE PROJECTS, LTD. IT IS A SERIOUS VIOLATION OF US AND INTERNATIONAL LAW TO REPRODUCE THIS COPYRIGHTED WORK FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:24 AM on November 10, 2005


I think some of his stuff is cool, but the moment you find yourself saying "This is a freakin' scam" then, well, you've come to understand the context of Richard Prince. Laugh all you want, but you won't be doing it on the way to the bank like him.

I find him a lot less interesting than others, but provocative nonetheless.
posted by bardic at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2005


I think its a bargin. Richard Prince is one of the best artists working in the US .
posted by R. Mutt at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2005


I don't know modern art, but I know what I like: Mostly pretty pictures of trees. Also stuff with naked girls is nice. This contains neither trees nor naked girls, so it is not art.

I demand Richard Prince not ever make money on artwork ever again! Unless it contains naked girls. Or trees.
posted by eatitlive at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2005


PirateBowling -- we can't do it... because we simply don't have the right group of wealthy friends who will adopt our dubious theories and thus make us rich.
posted by ph00dz at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2005


Dick Paris has it right about the scale of these works. The prints are very large and really make you forget that they were "appropriated". I remember making a special effort to go the 1992 Prince retrospective at the Whitney because he was one of my favorites during my time in art school in the late 1980's.

Wow, we've made it through this thread and nobody has used the words "discourse", "hegemony", or 'simulacra'.

Damn, now I'm getting all nostalgic. And I promised myself I wouldn't.
posted by hotmud at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2005


Funny thing, I bet many of you would be wild about Richard Prince's photographs of half dressed biker chicks but .... oh, never mind .
posted by R. Mutt at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2005


hotmud, you forgot late capitalism!
posted by bardic at 11:14 AM on November 10, 2005


I saw some of his large scale photos (many lifted from magazine ads) at the Whitney several years ago. They were stunning. There's a physical and material presence that is hard to imagine a photograph achieving - something about rescaling and decontextualization.

He has a few nudes and sunsets, if that's your thing.

(And now I see why "on preview" is such a prevalent phrase - What hotmud and R. Mutt just said.)
posted by xod at 11:29 AM on November 10, 2005


One of this guy's photos is hanging in the Met right now. I saw it last week. A photograph of a Marlboro ad. The explanation on the wall next to it was some of the most ridiculous postmodern palaver I've ever had the displeasure to read. I thought it was silly then, and I can't believe someone paid that much for it.
Also, the photo exhibit at the Met now, the spiritualist one, is so cool. Ectoplasm!
posted by banishedimmortal at 11:32 AM on November 10, 2005


And now I have it on my hard drive.

Cool picture.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:50 AM on November 10, 2005


Mmm, flavor country.
posted by dobie at 12:29 PM on November 10, 2005


But that Hans Hofmann and the Basquiat are quite nice... I think this has less to do with the art world's acceptance of the ideas of Richard Prince, which they probably could not care less about, and more to do with art world's commodification of Richard Prince. His is a name that can be attached to work which then magically has value. I also think when these kind of po-mo moves are being sold for 1.2 million their historical moment has likely passed...
posted by Slothrop at 12:38 PM on November 10, 2005


Is there more value in a bit of paint splattered by Pollack? Arranged by O'Keefe? Daubed on an assembly line by Kinkade?

Paying millions for artwork is inherently irrational - art is about emotional response. I've spent hundreds (which I cannot afford) on a few woodcut prints made by a Chicagoan in the 1930's. While they have no inherent value, they are worth far more to me than what I paid for them.

If you don't get it (And really, how many have seen this photo beyond tiny web images?), don't worry about it. You don't have to.

As a photographer, I'm sensitive to shrill commentary about what does or does not constitute art. Photography is about seeing in new ways. Prince has clearly accomplished this with his work.

As did Warhol and Lichtenstein with theirs.

That's part of the reason (warning: self links ahead) I've tried to imitate all three of them at once (though without much success).
posted by aladfar at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2005


Philistines. All of you.

You smoke clove cigarettes, don't you? and you wear a beret (which is unacceptable unless it's a Green Beret)?

The proper thing to do would be to render payment in photocopies of $100 bills.
posted by jonmc at 12:45 PM on November 10, 2005


Ok art world, we get it.. because an artist conceived, or arranged it it's art - very clever... now can we move on please?

Yeah, when will they get over that one? I mean, Michelangelo was conceiving of and arranging things and calling them art centuries ago. Sheesh.

I'm pretty sure I used the word 'sheesh' in the last thread here on contemporay art here too. How depressing.

Do any of the naysayers here actually spend much time looking at contemporary art? Because I'm willing to bet money (not $1,248,000, mind) that if you did you'd end up revising your opinions. Maybe only a little bit, but I'm sure you'd find something that, when described to you, sounded fucking preposterous, but in the flesh moved you, raised your heartbeat, stuck in your mind for years, made you look at everything else in a different way... you know, all that stuff that good visual art does.

Admittedly, it's my job to look at contemporary art and write incredibly wanky stuff about it (that's wanky as in I recently wrote a 1,000 words of fulsome praise for a resin cast of a bottle of piss) and I still do think, 'Oh, for crying out loud, that's a lot of nonsense' all the time, but more often I see stuff that knocks me for six, as much as or more than 'traditional' art does, and I don't believe that's because I'm a beret wearing fool, it's just that I go and look at this stuff a hell of a lot. (And that's not to say I don't go weak at the knees in front of, I dunno, a Titian, or a Bacon, too.)

Dismissing all art since Duchamp, or all art that doesn't fit with some weird idea that art must display a certain level of skill on the part of the artist to justify its existance is just, to use a highfalutin' artworld term, totally fucking lame.
posted by jack_mo at 2:26 PM on November 10, 2005


I'm shocked, yes, shocked that someone whose username is R. Mutt would consider Prince 'one of the best artists working in the US'
posted by Simon! at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2005


First off, Slothrop hit it right on the nail.

Next, to dismiss one modern artist is not necessarily to dismiss them all. As with everything, it's all a matter of taste. For instance, I can't stand the work of Cy Twombly or Mark Rothko, but love that of Robert Rauschenberg and Bill Viola.

I've seen Prince's work before, and some of it is interesting and thought-provoking, but to pay that much money for something like that is ridiculous, and more a symptom of the nature of the contemporary art market than anything resembling aesthetic value.
posted by May Kasahara at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2005


Dismissing all art since Duchamp, or all art that doesn't fit with some weird idea that art must display a certain level of skill on the part of the artist to justify its existance is just, to use a highfalutin' artworld term, totally fucking lame.

Most of us aren't doing that. I'm absolutely sure that appropriation and "remixing" existing art can itself be art. I'm just saying this is a lame-ass example and not worth the sum some rich twit paid for it.
posted by jonmc at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2005


...more a symptom of the nature of the contemporary art market than anything resembling aesthetic value.

Why would one assume that aesthetic value is related to a work of art's artistic/social value?
posted by R. Mutt at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2005


Was Prince the first person to come up with "re-photographing"? It's been around for decades, in much better forms than this.

What's surprising is this is the highest price paid for any photograph, not just a photograph of a photograph.
posted by fungible at 4:02 PM on November 10, 2005


I'm pretty certain is was Levine, as posted above.

But Prince (and the photograph in question) has been around for decades too.
posted by xod at 4:09 PM on November 10, 2005


Prince, Levine, (and several other well known artists, including Cindy Sherman) were all in the Artist's Space (a nonprofit) "Pictures" show together.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:21 PM on November 10, 2005


* in 1977.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:22 PM on November 10, 2005


Why would one assume that aesthetic value is related to a work of art's artistic/social value?

For someone who has taken on Duchamp's alias, you seem unaware that Duchamp's last, longest, most complex project was inherently visual and thus aesthetic through and through. The piece was "about" the act of seeing and relied completely on traditional modes like representation and the skillful rendering of a subject. Etant donnés
posted by Slothrop at 4:32 PM on November 10, 2005


We were not discussing Etant donnes Slothrop. Of course you are right about the complexity of Duchamp's last piece and we could argue all through grad seminar about decisions he made late in his working life.

What was at issue was whether value should be dependant solely or largely upon aesthetic value. I would maintain that it is one of many reasons a work would be considered valuable or culturally significant. It is not the sole or even a necessary reason to value a work of art.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:02 PM on November 10, 2005


That's why you always have to read the fine print!
posted by clevershark at 5:05 PM on November 10, 2005


A photography teacher told me that all color photographs are unstable and will fade over a few decades. So regardless of whether I think Prince's work has merit, I'm amazed someone would spend so much money on any color photo. (And not just someone--there were at least three bidders over the one million mark.)
posted by hydrophonic at 8:03 PM on November 10, 2005


hydrophonic -- all the winning bidder has to do now is let the photo appreciate in value another 10 years, and sell it off for even more! The sucker is whoever gets it last!
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:06 PM on November 10, 2005


What was at issue was whether value should be dependant solely or largely upon aesthetic value. I would maintain that it is one of many reasons a work would be considered valuable or culturally significant. It is not the sole or even a necessary reason to value a work of art.

Okay, so I listed just one way a piece can have value instead of every single way, but regardless: despite whatever aesthetic, cultural, or social signifigance any piece has, the art market is still utterly ridiculous at times.

hydroponic: Heh, I believe you're right. And I'm not sure if something that big could be restored once the color fades.
posted by May Kasahara at 6:37 AM on November 11, 2005


piratebowling : "When I hear people bashing modern art, the main sentiment I hear is, 'Yeah, but I could've done that.'

"Well, guess what? You didn't, so suck it."


Actually, I did. The problem isn't that I couldn't do it, it's that I did it, but wasn't lucky/connected enough to make a million dollars off it.
posted by Bugbread at 7:13 AM on November 11, 2005


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