At Barbara Gladstone’s stand, a 2007 Richard Prince painting of three women
was sold before the VIP opening. Prices for Prince’s big new works run from
$5 million to $7 million, said a gallery assistant who declined to be named.
This is crazy money. Prince’s auction
record, for one of his iconic cowboys, is $2.8 million. And although it’s
not unheard-of for new art to go for well above an auction record, one only
expects such a state of affairs when the auction record is weak and the new
art is particularly strong. Neither of those applies in this situation. Prince’s
new paintings, no matter how good they are, will never have the art-historical
importance (and therefore value) of his older rephotographed works.
I’m always very hesitant to call a bubble, but I’m doing that now, with respect
to Prince’s latest works. Collectors are paying for square footage and for a
brand name, and they’re paying through the nose: these paintings are priced
at or above similarly-sized paintings by the likes of Hirst and Koons. In fact,
they might be the most expensive new paintings on the market today: I’m not
even sure that Johns or Twombly or Richter could sell their work for more. And
Johns, Twombly and Richter are all great painters. Prince might be a great artist
(I’m not sure about that), but he certainly isn’t a great painter. These prices
simply will not stand the test of time.