PRINT Summer 2008




AS PAUL MCCARTHY’S principal representative for many years, I read Sarah Thornton’s “Market Index” article on McCarthy’s work with particular interest. After an introduction to his early career, she states, “From 1992 onward, McCarthy had no shortage of exhibition opportunities in the US, but his sales were still sticky.” She goes on to cite Jeffrey Poe as one of a handful of gallerists to stage solo shows of the artist’s work in the 1990s, who states that it was difficult to sell the work, that “it took a European sensibility to blow it out of the box.” The suggestion here is that along came an enlightened European and the McCarthy market was transformed. This impression is patently false, as it ignores considerable aspects of McCarthy’s exhibition and sales histories.

The Luhring Augustine Gallery first exhibited McCarthy’s work in 1992, the same year as [LA] MoCA’s “Helter Skelter” exhibition—McCarthy’s breakout show. The gallery went on to stage six solo shows in New York between 1993 and 2002. The first of the six shows included Bossy Burger and Cultural Gothic. In fact, Iwan Wirth, of Hauser & Wirth, did not buy Bossy Burger “sitting derelict in the artist’s garage” from McCarthy, as the article implies, but from Luhring Augustine, Wirth having been introduced to the work by David Zwirner.

As for the difficulty of US sales, Jeffrey Poe (who had two shows—one of early photos and another of the Tokyo Santa installation) is certainly correct. In New York, sales started slowly, but North American support was evident from the beginning. In addition to Jeffrey Deitch’s purchase of The Garden directly out of “Helter Skelter,” Luhring Augustine also sold major works both privately and to public institutions, including the Rubell Family Collection, the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, the Whitney Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Museum of Modern Art. The assertion that MoCA is the only American institution that owns a major McCarthy is simply untrue.

Additionally, Luhring Augustine helped orchestrate and support Dan Cameron’s 2001 New Museum exhibition of McCarthy’s work, turning over the gallery for the display of Santa’s Chocolate Shop, as the museum was unable to accommodate the work. And it was Cameron’s exhibition, McCarthy’s first major museum show anywhere, that helped generate the flurry of subsequent interest, both here and abroad.

In partnership with Hauser & Wirth, the Luhring Augustine Gallery was also instrumental in presenting the Van Abbemuseum and Centro de Arte Contemporáneo [CAC], Málaga, exhibition “Brain Box Dream Box” (2004), Tate Modern’s 2003 show “Paul McCarthy,” organized in cooperation with the Henry Moore Foundation and featuring Blockhead and Daddies Bighead, and Munich’s Haus der Kunst show “LaLa Land Parody Paradise” (2005), which was co-organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. We also lent our support to the Public Art Fund’s display of The Box at the IBM Building in New York in 2001, as well as other public works in collaboration with the Public Art Fund, the Whitney Biennial, and the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

As an early and ardent supporter of McCarthy’s work, I always felt that his lack of early success fueled his continuing development as an artist. The work inspired conflict and risks for everyone involved. I only hope that McCarthy can now maintain what Thornton refers to as his “healthy indifference to the market.”

One wonders how Artforum could overlook our role in this recent history and allow this gross misrepresentation, and it speaks to a lack of oversight—especially considering that the costs of representing McCarthy were increased by our ads in Artforum, where we announced every show.

—Lawrence Luhring
Luhring Augustine Gallery
New York


I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS about being able to control how the “Pictures” show I organized at Artists Space in 1977 will be understood historically, but for the record I did not, as Richard Prince claims in “Richard Prince Talks to Steve Lafreniere” [March 2003], ask him to be in the exhibition or show him the essay for the catalogue. I didn’t know Prince or his work at the time. Prince himself has written, in 5000 Artists Return to Artists Space: 25 Years [Artists Space, 1998], “I wasn’t aware of the ‘Pictures’ show or what other people were doing. I’d been living in the West Village completely isolated and working at Time-Life. . . . I had a very punk attitude, a chip on my shoulder. I thought I was doing something no one else was doing, and therefore it couldn’t possibly be incorporated into anything that was going on.”

—Douglas Crimp
New York
Reprinted from Summer 2003

Richard Prince responds, 2008:
*Paint it white. I’m a liar. And I cheat too. I make things up and I can’t be trusted. It’s not my fault. I’ve always been a thief and started stealing when I was six years old. I took a knife from a hardware store, brought it home, and when my father asked me if I did it, I told him no. . . . I didn’t take anything. . . . I’m innocent.

I grew up watching television shows like Who Do You Trust and What’s My Line? and Truth or Consequences. My parents worked for the government and when I would ask what they did exactly I could never get a straight answer. Straight wasn’t happening for me . . . odd, different, and off, was what was normal.

We moved around a lot and my father was always away. It wasn’t until I was a teenager when I was visiting him in Hawaii that I learned that he worked for the CIA. This was in 1966 and he was based in Honolulu and going over to Vietnam helping to defoliate the forest so our troops could get a better look at the enemy. He always told me he was an electrical engineer. In his spare time he would sit in the basements of our various houses and fool with his ham radio. His call letters were WIUOH UNCLE OBO HOW. He tried teaching me Morse code. Da Dit Dit Dit . . . Dit Dit Da Dit . . . That was as far as I got. He never gave me anything.

I was born in Panama. The Canal Zone. In Balboa Hospital. My mother used to work for the OSS down there . . . an organization that came before the CIA. She used to tell me stories about working for Joe Kennedy, the president’s father. She used to tell me stories about standing around in people’s closets. Maybe that’s where I got that joke . . . My parents kept me in a closet . . . until I was fifteen, I thought I was a suit. I never believed the stories she told me.

Fiction for me has always been better than fact. That’s why I love the movies so much. My mother took me to see West Side Story when I was ten and I think I’ve been in that movie ever since. I loved the way Bernardo looked, his hair and dark skin, and especially what he wore to the YMCA dance . . . the black suit with tapered pants and thin lapels and the skinny black tie over a purple shirt. I had never seen anyone dress like that. What I never saw was what I always wanted. My parents would never let me wear an outfit like Bernardo’s. They would never let me wear his pointy shiny boots . . . what would later become Beatle boots. They would never let me wear my hair long. They always told me what to do and what they would tell me was always wrong. I remember in the eighth grade Mick Jagger came on TV on the Ed Sullivan Show and he wore a gray sweatshirt. Gray sweatshirts were associated with beatniks and my father got so pissed off he threw a lamp at the TV.

Alternative lifestyle has always attracted me. Hip versus square . . . us against them . . . bohemian, Left Bank, the Village, North Beach, City Lights. When I first moved to SoHo in 1974 it represented “the other side” . . . a place free from the straights, the narrow-minded, the churchgoing, the proms and parades, the crew cuts and the medals. I was able to get there because I got out of the draft by faking paranoid psychosis. . . . Uncle Sam almost got me but at the end of the day I gave the authorities a letter from a shrink stating that I would more than likely fi re upon any person who would teach me how to use a weapon. Getting out of the draft was the happiest day of my life. “Faking” would start filling my wallet. Practicing without a license would be my shingle.

It’s hard for me to believe in the world. ABC, CBS, NBC are jokes. Time and Newsweek are heterosexual. The Warren Commission was a comic book. Gandhi, King, Lennon, and the two Kennedys gave hope and got smoked. That atom bomb is a sidecar on a motorcycle. The sun isn’t yellow it’s chicken.

I eat politics, I sleep politics, but I don’t drink politics. If you can tell me who the president of France was when Gauguin was painting in Tahiti I’ll pay for your graduate school. I lied when I said I was invited by Doug Crimp to be in his “Pictures” show. I was fooling around. I made it up. My judgment frosted. The truth of the matter didn’t apply. I tried to get away with it and paint it white. I added on to the story. You could say I was writing under a pseudonym. I was never there to begin with. I had never met him, wasn’t aware of the show, and didn’t know any of the artists in the show. I had never been to Artists Space. I was living in the West Village on Eleventh Street rephotographing advertisements in magazines. I thought I was doing what he was talking about. For years people assumed that I was in the show. I gave up telling them I wasn’t. I just started agreeing. I was the host of my own game show. Lying was my contribution.

—Richard Prince
Rensselaerville, NY

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