Richard Prince claims he has returned the $36,000 he received from Ivanka Trump for a work he recently disavowed as “fake.” The artist intended the gesture as an act of protest directed at Trump’s father, who is due to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in one week, but it may have the unintended consequence of making the work more (rather than less) valuable.
The piece, from Prince’s ongoing New Portraits series, is a screenshot of a photo from Trump’s Instagram feed (a mid-makeover selfie), comments and all, printed on canvas. It was specially commissioned by Trump in a transaction brokered by an art advisor in November 2014. On Wednesday, Prince took to Twitter to publicly renounce the piece. “This is not my work. I did not make it. I deny. I denounce. This fake art,” he tweeted. Prince intended his action as a protest against Trump and her father, echoing recent public statements by other artists whose work Trump owns, including Alex Da Corte and Nate Lowman, who are involved in the “Dear Ivanka” campaign.
However, given the many layers of irony, filtering, and conceptual framing that characterize Prince’s oeuvre, it’s unclear whether his public disowning of the work will negatively affect its worth and status as an authentic Richard Prince, or, on the contrary, it will add to its resale value. Or, as New York-based art advisor Joshua Holdeman told the New York Times, “My intuition about this is that when history plays out, this will probably end up being a more culturally rich object than if this whole episode hasn’t happened.”
Prince reportedly sought to return the money through the advisor who originally arranged the commission, whom he refused to name. However, a source close to Trump told the Times that the money is being returned to Prince.
“It was just an honest way for me to protest,” Prince told the Times. “Whether it will affect anything is not the point. It’s a way of me saying to them I don’t want my work in your possession. I don’t want anything to do with your family.” On his personal blog, Birdtalk, Prince was a little more candid about his motivations: “When it comes to Donald Trump, I feel like I want to ring someone’s neck. I felt like if I could be honest it might relieve some of the frustration.”
As one Twitter user points out, Prince seems to have given Trump a bargain — the New Portraits works are known to sell for as much as $100,000.
Though, as another reader notes, these figures may not take into account the fee given to Prince’s gallery, Gagosian, which he was still working with at the time.