More than special: Richard Prince Cowboys

In anticipation of the pieces Gagosian HK will choose to show at their off-site exhibition during ArtHK 2011, let's treat ourselves to a selection of Richard Prince's best works here and now.

Although they are important in my love of art history, Heart Fairs is not so much a fan of Prince's painted nurses or jokes, which we saw at the wonderful Serpentine show in i think 2008 (thanks, Serpentine!)... we think the photos of girls are ok, we like the brand collabs of course and we do like the muscle cars (but mostly just because we love America and we like cars). So what are Richard Prince's so called 'best works' as in, HF's favourites?

the Cowboy series (1980-1992)

"Prince's picture is a copy (the photograph) of a copy (the advertisement) of a myth (the cowboy)."
Source:Richard Prince: Untitled (Cowboy) (2000.272) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

image from Art Abu Dhabi fair 2009

image from a post on 

The first Richard Prince cowboy I ever saw in person, at the Guggenheim NYC, I was blown away. image from Flickr
Ok, i'm close to a few (happy) tears at this point and I havent even started, haha!
No bullshit, I swear, this is just what Richard Prince cowboys do to me. They have surfaced at some very significant points in my life and it seems there is potential they might surface again on my trip to ArtHK11 which would be eerie and amazing. But, you dont have to be a ranch-devoted, Elvis-loving, heartaches&highways-obsessed new blogger to at least see the beauty in what he has done.

To get the technicals over with, Prince (b.1949) made non-direct reproductions of advertising images as  fine art photography, blown up to sizes usually over 1.5m height and width. I say 'non-direct' because, as the Met puts it, they were made "using a repertoire of strategies (such as blurring, cropping, and enlarging) to intensify their original artifice." I especially mention the re-sizing because it is an important part of his practice of making the images into art pieces. Despite this they are indeed photographs and sold in the medium of photography at auction. You can call them 'rephotographs' if you want but I cant be bothered with that. The series continued from 1980 for over a decade and may even be still going.

The myth of the cowboy is one I like to perpetuate in my imagination as not mere myth, and these photographs help me do it. They make him real, as if Prince was immersed in the culture to get the shot, and everything there is indeed the ideal. Although that impact is fabricated, Prince's cowboys thereby reach something a basic advertising image can never quite achieve. But besides my weirdass connection to all things country and western (i'm Australian ppl!?!), it is a love for America in art and America's modern art history that make Richard Prince cowboys so special, up there with Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and David Hockney's A bigger splash and A bigger grand canyon.

Prince is a HUGE part of why everyone should visit the Rubell Family Collection Museum in Miami - to see what they have to say, show and have published about the artist. The Rubells have been collecting Prince's work for 30 years - I know this because of their 2005 exhibition American Dream: Collecting Richard Prince for 27 years haha - buy the catalogue and visit the RFC here. Of course, they mentioned him, with slides, at Art Stage Singapore in Jan. Heroes :)

Here are some cowboys from the RFC collection:
Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy), 1987, Ektacolor photograph, Ed. 2/2, 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm

Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy), 1987, Ektacolor photograph, Ed. 2/2, 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm

Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy), 1987, Ektacolor photograph, Ed. 2/2, 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm)cm

Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy), 1987, Ektacolor photograph, Ed. 2/2, 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm)

So, getting a chance to see Richard Prince art while in town for ArtHK is a massive bonus not only for those who may not know of him or not have seen his works before, but who also for everyone who cant get all the way to the US any time soon to experience America in art. And such is the beauty of Art Fairs :)

** The second time I encountered a Richard Prince cowboy was as an intern in Sotheby's later that same year, 2008. A photograph of cowboys in the bottom left hand corner of the image pitching a tent at sunset. I cant find it anywhere online now so if you find it in a book or online  please email me an image and I wll be forever grateful!! 
It just hung at Sothebys HQ, on show before a sale, and I would view it in awe, with noone else around except 'suits' (because normal people dont go in and see the Bond Street exhibitions). I wondered who would get to own it, and I visited it every time I needed to "get coffee" or "go get the mail" haha!**

So what do you guys think - Like these?
Which artists are special to you?