Untitled (Fashion Helmet)

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Richard Prince
American, born 1949

Untitled (Fashion Helmet), 1982

Chromogenic print
59.6 x 40.9 cm (image); 60.9 x 50.8 cm (paper)
Gift of Boardroom, Inc., 1992.708

© Richard Prince. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Around the time he made this piece, Richard Prince was spending a lot of time watching movies rented from a World of Video store. Asked by a store employee what he did for a living, Prince answered that he was a thief, a statement whose possible truth belied its apparent irony. From 1977 until 1984, Prince presented as his own work rephotographed advertisements from magazines. Liberated from their initial context, the images, or details of images, took on a fantastic quality, one that kept in play the aura of desire, money, and power fuelling all consumer culture, while adding dimensions of instability and true freedom that consumerism is designed to repress. In this photograph fashion sheaths its wearer like a condom, making a man-part out of a woman while cloaking manliness in a feminine accoutrement. Copyright infringement, an act of thievery in legal terms, is the most obvious but not the greatest transgression accomplished by Prince’s appropriation of publicly circulating photographs, an interest he retains to this day.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 299.