Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More Prince

Ed Winkleman has another post up about the Richard Prince show at the Neuberger Museum, mentioned earlier here. He starts with a quote from curator Michaels Lobel's introduction to the catalogue for the exhibition:

"We can certainly allow that there are categories of work that should not be included in the official record, or that at the very least have an ambiguous status: student works, for instance, or pieces that never leave the studio and thus are never fully realized or executed. But once a work has been executed and exhibited and written about, and perhaps even bought and sold, are we really to allow an artist to edit or erase the historical record? My short answer is no."

Winkleman agrees, and it's clear he feels pretty strongly about it: "it's a very small thing collectors and gallerists ask of fine artists: don't unendorse a piece I bought and don't delete the exhibition I gave you from your CV. Seriously, how freakin' hard is that? You had the sold the work. Live with it."

But I don't think I really understand the claim that Prince has done something wrong here. Lobel talks about "editing or erasing the historical record," and Winkleman about "rescinding authorship," "declaring that for all intents and purposes an earlier work he created is not 'a Richard Prince,'" but, unless there's more to the story than appears to be the case, I don't see where that's happened. According to Roberta Smith's review, Prince "declined to participate" in the show, and also refused copyright permission for the catalogue -- both of which he clearly had the right to do. He didn't (so far as I know) seek an injunction or otherwise try to block the show; he hasn't declared that the works shown are not Richard Princes. Why is it somehow improper for an artist to be an active interpreter of his own artistic development? What's wrong with saying (and I'm not suggesting Prince is saying this here), "Now that I look back on it, I really didn't find myself as an artist until such-and-such date or exhibition. The work I did before then, while I don't deny that it is mine, doesn't really feel to me to be a significant part of my story as an artist"? Rather than "editing" or "erasing" the historical record, isn't that really participating in understanding it? Is Richard Prince the only person who doesn't get to have a say about The Early Work of Richard Prince?