11 Things You Should Know About Richard Prince

He doesn't mind being called a troll.

Richard Prince in 1988. Photo: Barbara Gladstone.
Richard Prince. Photo: AP

Richard Prince.
Photo: AP.

Richard Prince dominated the news cycle last week thanks to an online uproar surrounding his latest series of Instagram-sourced “New Portraits,” which were on display in Gagosian’s booth at Frieze New York (see Richard Prince Instagram Victims Speak OutPayback for Richard Prince as Models Re-appropriate Stolen Instagram Images and Sell Them for $90).

While the appropriation artist isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (see Paddy Johnson On Why Richard Prince Sucks, Again and Johnson’s original takedown Richard Prince Sucks), he’s certainly a recognizable art world figure who is driving conversations about art, originality, and ownership in the digital age. However, as the artist admitted to Interview, “you know, I’m not an intellectual, I’m not an art historian, I’m not a genius.”

We went digging for some information on Prince’s life, and learned, among other things, that he fancies himself a writer (not to be confused with an award-winning author by a similar name), was born in Panama, and attended the original Woodstock. He’s also pals with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kim Gordon.


Richard Prince, Second House.

1. His work was once struck by lightning
In 2007, Prince’s outdoor installation Second House, which is located near his home in Rensselaerville, New York, was struck by lightning (see Prince’s Second House Destroyed). The structure, an abandoned shack converted by Prince into a “private, rural theme park,” was reduced to dust. Just two years earlier, the Guggenheim acquired the house and the 80 acres that surrounded it.

Richard Prince, "New Portraits" at Gagosian Gallery. Installation view.

Richard Prince, “New Portraits” at Gagosian Gallery. Installation view.

2. He’s a writer, of sorts
In 2014, Prince found himself in hot water over his short story “Eden Rock,” which appeared in Gagosian’s gallery newspaper; it was a blatant ripoff of the book, World War Z, and also pretty much every “Walking Dead” episode ever (see Richard Prince Writes Appropriation Fiction). In his spare time, he shares his musings about art, life, and the occasional mime on his blog Birdtalk (see Richard Prince Blog Watch: Richard Prince Doesn’t Get Mimes).

3. He was born in Panama
Prince was born in 1949 in the US-controlled Panama Canal Zone, which is now part of the Republic of Panama. In a 2000 interview with Julie L. Belcove in W Magazine, the artist responded to the question of why his parents were in the area by saying “they worked for the government.” When pressed on whether his father was in the military, he simply responded: “No, he just worked for the government.”

Richard Prince in 1988. Photo: Barbara Gladstone.

Richard Prince in 1988.
Photo: Barbara Gladstone.

4. He owns several copies of “On The Road,” including one signed by Kerouac.
Prince has a legendary book collection, much of which focuses on the Beat Generation. He owns several copies of Beat classic On the Road, including one that Jack Kerouac inscribed to his mother and one that he famously read from on “The Steve Allen Show.”

5. He doesn’t mind being called a troll. 
After multiple accusations that is Instagram appropriations constituted trolling, he responded via his blog with his comment: “Trolling…If you say so.” He continued, “It’s not like I’m on the back of a boat throwing out chum.”

Richard Prince, Wrong Joke (Again) (2001).

Richard Prince, Wrong Joke (Again) (2001).

6. His nom de plume is Fulton Ryder.
In an interview with rock icon and fellow artist Kim Gordon, Prince admitted that his former moniker was also the name of his now-defunct Upper East Side bookstore: Fulton Ryder.

7. He collects cancelled checks. 
In addition to books, Prince has also amassed a collection of something slightly less common: cancelled checks. Especially those from celebrities. In keeping with his Kerouac obsession, he even has one from the late Beat writer. He’s used some of the checks in his paintings. “I don’t see any difference now between what I collect and what I make,” he told Karen Rosenberg at New York Magazine in an interview.

The cover art for Sonic Youth's "Sonic Nurse." Photo: Wikipedia

The cover art for Sonic Youth’s “Sonic Nurse.”
Photo: Wikipedia.

8. He owns a copy of one of his own paintings. 
In the same interview with Rosenberg, he shared that he once purchased a copy of one of his own paintings from a street vendor. “There’s a guy on the street who paints copies of my ‘Nurse’ paintings, along with Elizabeth Peytons and Eric Fischls. I think it’s funny. I actually bought one; I thought it was pretty close.” At least he can appreciate the irony.

9. Sonic Youth used one of his paintings for an album cover. 
Sonic Youth, of which Prince’s pal Kim Gordon was the bassist, used one of his “Nurse” paintings for the cover of their aptly named 2004 album “Sonic Nurse” (see The Top 12 Album Covers Designed by Famous Artists).

10. He went to Woodstock.
In an interview with Glenn O’Brien, both admitted to having dropped acid at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in Bethel, New York. Unfortunately, Prince didn’t have a good time while on the drug. “I was the worst candidate for that kind of thing,” he admits. “I had to leave. I didn’t want to share my blanket or be ‘all one.'” (see Punk Writer Glenn O’Brien Collects Richard Prince and Tom Sachs).

11. He’s buddies with Leonardo DiCaprio. 
In addition to being a patron of Prince’s, the one of the art world’s most famous collectors is also a friend. In an interview at Gagosian gallery, DiCaprio makes an impromptu guest appearance to discuss matters like sandwiches, the New York Post‘s Page Six, and why Kanye West did the right thing by punching a paparazzo at an airport.

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