October 1, 2009

"[Artist Richard] Prince wasn't inviting us to ogle [10-year-old Brooke Shields naked], but to see exploitation as symptomatic of what was happening in America in the mink-coated Reagan years."

Prince is an artist, excoriating "Spiritual America," and what is bad is not his display of a naked child, but... Reagan!

More on the Tate Museum controversy and British pornography laws, here:
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Officers from the Obscene Publications Unit met with staff at the Tate Modern regarding an image. The officers have specialist experience in this field and are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors."

Prince's work is a photograph of a photograph. The original was taken by Garry Gross, a US photographer, in 1975. It was commissioned by Shields' mother, who was intent on turning her little girl into a child star and signed away the rights. The picture was later featured in a Playboy Press publication, and Gross planned to turn it into a poster....

In 1981, Shields made an unsuccessful attempt to buy back the negatives. A judge ruled that she was a "hapless victim of a contract... to which two grasping adults bound her". The legal battle caught the eye of Prince, and he describes Spiritual America as a commentary on Shields as an "abstract entity."
An abstract entity.

See? We have another morally superior artist man, claiming a privilege to use a young girl, because his use is injected with artistic sensibility. We should defer to the artist, who is here to critique us, the common people. Our attempts to do the same things he does would deserve punishment, because we would do them in our commonness, and that would be vulgar. Can't you see that's what Prince is revealing to you? Bow down, prole!


Fred4Pres said...

Yeah, I get what it reveals, these people don't care about anything but themselves.

Fred4Pres said...


That is a powerful word. My artistic sensibilities are engaged.

Q. I think words can be very sensuous, don't you?

A. No, words are sensual. People are sensuous.

Q. Right. Sensual. That's what I meant.

edutcher said...

Needless to say, nobody exploits women like the Left. I mean, how much male nudity comes out of Hollyweird or music videos, or those great pornographers and liberals, Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner?

Smilin' Jack said...

We have another morally superior artist man, claiming a privilege to use a young girl, because his use is injected with artistic sensibility.

Get a grip. He's not using a young girl, he's using a photograph of a photograph.

Treacle said...

What does child porn created during the Ford administration and being exploited during the Obama administration have to do with Reagan?

SteveR said...

I'm stuck on the Reagan thing, he's obviously just making shit up.

former law student said...

Richard Prince wanted us to feel the horror of child exploitation, the same as all those who described exactly what Polanski did to his victim, in loving detail.

Roger Sweeny said...

"Nobody listens to the proles."

Henry said...

As multiple commentors at the link point out, the still is from 1978. It's from the cardigan-coated Carter years.

former law student said...

he's obviously just making shit up.

We call that being factually challenged. I would call it "symptomatic of what was happening in America in the post-Watergate scandal years," because that still lets me blame Republican perfidy for the breakdown of morals.

Henry said...

Mink is so JFK.

MadisonMan said...

Was Teri Shields ever a parent?

traditionalguy said...

NPR is not going to like the attitude of our Professor towards the High Priests of Art. If we don't have the superior Artist's views to enlighten us, then we will be mere drudges doing the procreation and protection of human beings instead of creating Eternal Art Works. You see, there are fine wine lovers and there are Budweiser lovers, and the two are not to be given equal anything in the NPR's safe world dedicated to the highly educated. The theme of yesterday and into today seems to be that ordinary people can assert themselves against the claims that they and Sarah Palin have long since lost the Culture Wars and should never be heard from again.

madawaskan said...

Remember the Minister of Culture for France- Frederic Mitterand- who had this to say about America the other day when defending Polanski-

"In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."

Well, Frederic is the son of Francois and the Mitterands are considered Royalty-this is the explanation as to why Sarkozy-had to appoint a Socialist to his cabinet.

One of the things Mitterand the Socialist is known for is Mitterand Doctrine where in a sense Mitterand-the Socialist-decided that Italy's law was not just enough and he-had France shelter for years members of the Italian Red Brigade a Marxist Leninist group that kidnapped and murdered an Italian right wing politican and others.

Now just to add the final layer of disgust there is this from-

Frederic Mitterand's biography-

J’ai pris le pli de payer pour des garçons [...] Évidemment, j’ai lu ce qu’on a pu écrire sur le commerce des garçons d’ici .[...] Je sais ce qu’il y a de vrai. La misère ambiante, le maquereautage généralisé, les montagnes de dollars que ça rapporte quand les gosses n’en retirent que des miettes, la drogue qui fait des ravages, les maladies, les détails sordides de tout ce trafic. Mais cela ne m’empêche pas d’y retourner. Tous ces rituels de foire aux éphèbes, de marché aux esclaves m’excitent énormément […]
On ne pourrait juger qu’un tel spectacle abominable d’un point de vue moral, mais il me plaît au-delà du raisonnable […] La profusion de jeunes garçons très attrayants et immédiatement disponibles me met dans un état de désir que je n’ai plus besoin de réfréner ou d’occulter. L’argent et le sexe, je suis au cœur de mon système, celui qui fonctionne enfin car je sais qu’on ne me refusera pas.

Here is the crap translation of that-but still most of you can get this-

I took the [envelope] to pay for boys [...] Évidemment, I read what one could write on the trade of the boys from here. [...] I know what there is of truth. Ambient misery, the generalized maquereautage, mountains of dollars that brings back when the kids withdraw from them only crumbs, the drugs which makes devastation, the diseases, sordid details of all this traffic. But that does not prevent me from going back there. All these ritual of [the]fair to the beautiful young men, of the slave market excites me enormously […] One could consider only one such spectacle abominable from a point of view moral, but I like it beyond the reasonable one […] The profusion of young boys very attractive and immediately available puts me in a state of desire that I do not need more réfréner or to occult. The money and the sex, I am in the middle of my system, that which functions finally because I know that I will not be refused.

PatCA said...

Along with liberalism, we are seeing the collapse of the artistic order.

C'est magnifique.

Ann Althouse said...

"As multiple commentors at the link point out, the still is from 1978. It's from the cardigan-coated Carter years."

You prole! Don't you understand that the relevant date is when Prince appropriated the image, when he repurposed it as "Spiritual America"?

Fred4Pres said...

Does anyone here have any Soma? I am out.

BJM said...

Well sheet, I obviously didn't get my Reagan issue mink coat, however I did have a respectable cloth coat.

What the hell is wrong with the artistic community?

Reminds me of a fav New Yorker cartoon depicting the Chairman in a board room of agitated, cigar puffing directors asking into the intercom: "Miss Kravitz, can you please send in someone who knows right from wrong."

Theo Boehm said...

Wenn ich das Wort Kultur höhre, schon erreiche ich für meinem Luger.

Lem said...

Theme of the day cometh.

Richard Dolan said...

"We have another morally superior artist man, claiming a privilege to use a young girl, because his use is injected with artistic sensibility."

But he's really just using an image ('a photograph of a photograph'), not a person. They are quite different -- for example, stabbing the image isn't regarded with the same moral seriousness as stabbing the young girl. Thus I don't think the use of a photo of a photo, even given its subject matter, really involves the claim of 'privilege' or the degree of moral obtuseness that Anne makes against him. It's enough to say that his cultural/political point, to the extent he has one, is fatuous and jejune.

This post reminded me of some of Anne's earlier posts on much more offensive museum exhibits. I remember particularly an early post (Aug 2005) about an exhibit in Switzerland, where the artist had grafted the head of a human fetus onto a bird's body.

In comparison, this use of a photo of an old photo of Brooke Shields -- she of the 'nothing gets between me and my Calvins ad' if I remember rightly -- is pretty tame stuff.

Anne ended that 2005 post about 'fetusbird': "Don't you understand art?" Well, don't you?

c3 said...

It appears that you can call anything "art" as long you describe it as either a) railing against some "acceptable" evil (i.e. ?Reagan) or b)advocate for a universally accepted virtue (i.e. peace,love, understanding ...)

Of course those on the left might identify different "acceptable" evil to which one can rail (although it does seem to be a moving target)

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"...he describes Spiritual America as a commentary on Shields as an 'abstract entity.'"

I want somebody to tell me again that he has no idea what is meant by the term "objectification of women".

She tried to buy back the image - OBVIOUSLY she doesn't want it used without her authority or consent, or possibly at all. But that is completely irrelevant to this artiste.

former law student said...

A review I just read about the younger Mitterand's book said he left references to pedophilia ambiguous. "Boys" can be young men as "girls" can refer to young women. In Patpong, he said « On sert de femme de remplacement et de livret de caisse d‘épargne. Les beaux gosses arrivent comme au sport et pour financer l‘électroménager de leur futur mariage avec la cousine choisie par leur mère.>> "You serve as a replacement woman as well as a savings account passbook. Handsome boys come for the fun of it and to finance the appliances for their future marriage with the cousin chosen by their mother." Are underaged boys (and their mothers) really thinking that long-term? Or is this just a quick way for young men close to setting up their own households to raise cash?

Revenant said...

her hair has been elaborately done and she is wearing so much lipstick, mascara and eye shadow that it looks as though the head of a 25-year-old Playmate had been spliced on the body of a child. The original photo was commissioned with the approval of the child's mother who, as her manager, allowed it to be published in the soft porn magazine Sugar n' Spice

I'd always wondered what kind of crazy parents would let their daughter appear in "Pretty Baby".

And now I know.

Oh well. At least Shields doesn't seem to have been permanently damaged by her experiences.

alan markus said...

I did know that those were the "mink-coated Reagan years". I thought those were the "Cordoba with fine Corinthian leather" years.


ricpic said...

Being exploited into a higher income bracket under Reagan was fun!

ricpic said...

Shields grew up (and up and up) to be a man.

traditionalguy said...

The Brooke Shields pandering was of course for a cut of the money available by the latest Playboy Philosophy line crossing event in public about the existence of SEX. So we mostly went along with allowing freedom to pander sex. The ongoing sin businesses like Prostitution have always been overlooked while we posture about high morality. The artists attempts to get us to become sinners mentally for our own good maybe a necessary result of our repression of our animal "Old Man" in scriptural terms. But the focus on the individual victim's needs instead of on the society's needs results in todays sudden repentance. If you play, you pay. If this dude wants to point at a national spiritual crisis caused by sexual immorality among the elites he needs to go no further than to the Mother of all immoral Presidentialguys who had his election purchased for him thru his Father's close Mafia alliances.

Joe said...

I will first put on my bullet proof suit and say that the photograph in question is stunning. Considering the number of classical nudes of girls and boys at the same development, there is a real question to be asked about art and nudity. The current response from all quarters seems to be on part with the freaking out about children in general (like a kid taking the subway alone) and successful and increasing attempts to legislated childhood beyond the teens.

All that said, Richard Prince is a con artist. The guy makes me sick. Yes, he's done a few genuinely creative things, but then he gave up and just rips off other artists without any attempt to add anything of his own. (For those who don't know, this is the guy who, among other things, photographs advertisements from magazines, blows them up and claims the art as his own.)

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'd always wondered what kind of crazy parents would let their daughter appear in "Pretty Baby".

I saw Taxi Driver for the first time about a year ago and it was difficult watching Jodie Foster in her role.

Actually it was difficult watching that movie period.

Henry said...

I am a prole. I used to be artist, but couldn't hack the small talk.

A clarification -- when Prince first displayed the work, he hung it without comment. It is critic Richard Dorment writing in London in 2009 who provides us with the cutting edge interpretation.

A question -- is Prince's work always to be interpreted according to the date he first exhibited it? Why is that? If it is the act of exhibition that gives the art meaning, why does Dorment not figure out whatever it is that is symptomatic of whatever is that is happening in London, England in 2009?

Ah, the timelessness of art.

former law student said...

All that said, Richard Prince is a con artist.

Examples of con artists:

Jenny Holzer:


Jeff Koons:


knox said...

"the mink-coated Reagan years"

You have to figure out some way to make "when everyone did pretty well" sound lurid.

John said...

I will stand with Joe as well. Why is a nude of a child so bad? I am not endorsing child pronography. I just don't think a nude is pornography. I don't see it as a big deal.

madawaskan said...


I'm reading that from the uprising that Levy has inspired.

Seems the French common commenters are getting a little hung up on the word-


-I went to France in the midst of Bush's second term no less and they came up to me over and over again-strangers I met to say-

we are not anti-American.

It happened a lot-I don't know why.

I find it strange our betters, and theirs speaking for everyone.

I can see that he says "men"-he doesn't avoid-


Henry said...

Jeff Koons is a con artist. It is who he is conning that makes him great.

phosphorious said...

Is it odd that Ms Althouse is so very against this, while being rather tepidly against Polanski's crime?

Is artistic pretentiousness worse than rape?

madawaskan said...

Let me try to bring it together-

what bugs me most about Polanski is that he could have had any starlet -and in the Seventies they should have been a plenty instead he chose to prey on a thirteen year old-aided by drugs and the disparity of their stations in life.

Back to-Mitterand-he knew what he was doing.

What he was abusing-the Royalty of France taking advantage of near Third World conditions, existence.

He doesn't mind doing on the micro level what supposedly his family party rails against in the macro.

lucid said...

to smilin' jack and richard dolan:

what a tendentious and tedious point. surely you're not serious? perhaps naive or stupid?

chickenlittle said...

What is Art Art?

traditionalguy said...

The greek palywrites first used shame and guilt about sexual morality as community catharsis themes...remember Oedipus Rex. we need a chance to approach community standards and still not become suicidally guilty. But the underage female or male used in the Industry of titillation by art has some right to some measure of protection when her stage Mother sells her. Drawing these lines is needed to keep our sanity as a culture. What say we as a culture about McKensie Phillips and her Pappa?

former law student said...

Polanski's supporter Mitterand is disgusting but probably not a fellow pedophile.

The relation of pimp, prostitute and john is repellent to me in any case. But lust the only emotion Mitterand felt by the display of so many young men for hire.

I note the author uses the word "ephebe" to describe these young men. In ancient Greece, these were young men between 18 and 20, being trained to perform civil and military duties. So again, the question of the age of these male prostitutes is up in the air.

"I took the [folded paper] to pay for the boys. Obviously I had read what could be written on the commerce of boys here. I knew that which was true here: the pervasive misery, the overall pimpage, the mountains of dollars it brought from which the boys drew only crumbs, the ravages caused by drugs, disease, the sordid details of all this trafficking.

"Yet all these rituals of this exhibition of young men, this slave market, excited me enormously. Such an abominable spectacle could only be judged from the moral point of view, but it pleased me beyond reason.

"The profusion of young men both very attractive and immediately available put me in a state of desire that I no longer had to suppress or hide. Sex and money, were at the heart of my system, the one which functioned at last because I knew no one would refuse me."

miller said...

Has America gone Stark Raving Mad?

Hazy Dave said...

"Some have greatness thrust upon them. Others have greatness thrust into them."

former law student said...

to amplify Madawaskan's point: to a 43 year old man, wouldn't a legal 18 year old seem young enough? Why prey upon a seventh-grader?

kcom said...

"to a 43 year old man, wouldn't a legal 18 year old seem young enough? Why prey upon a seventh-grader?"

Yeah, but I guess there's no thrill to it if she's legal. Legal means she's a woman, not a girl.

“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!” - Roman Polanski at age 46

Paul Brinkley said...

miller: Has America gone Stark Raving Mad?

Man, that was such a great sitcom. I wish it had rated higher.

WV: lersal - the fin on the hood of a pervert's car

Fred4Pres said...

Anne Applebaum doing a little digging...like to China.

Even Andrew Sullivan is telling Appelbaum to stop digging.

Shanna said...

to amplify Madawaskan's point: to a 43 year old man, wouldn't a legal 18 year old seem young enough? Why prey upon a seventh-grader?

FLS, definitely agreed. But he continued to go for very young girls afterwards, I don’t care if 15 was legal in France, he still was not content with grown women. That says something.

It also seems like he requested this girl specifically to do a photo shoot, set the whole thing up, had the drugs ready, etc.. which adds a whole layer of creepy to the thing.

Der Hahn said...

Joe said... Considering the number of classical nudes of girls and boys at the same development, there is a real question to be asked about art and nudity.

I understand where you are coming from but I think that the medium makes a difference in this case. When we look at a sculpture or painting we tend to assume that the model must have been physically present in the exact pose being reproduced. I think photography and video have conditioned us to assume this even though it's not required.

But a photograph of a girl known to be under eighteen at the time who appears to be nude requires that girl to be nude (or nearly so) in a room with a photographer, at least B.P (Before Photoshop).

If the objective is to produce an artful photograph, why would it be necessary to use a model known to be under age?

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred4Pres said...

Wow: Michelle Obama: It's a 'sacrifice' to travel to Europe to pitch for the Olympics. But I'm doing it for the kids.

Afghanistan is decending into chaos. An Obama officials advised a 15 year old having sex with an adult he met in a bus station to "use condoms" and did not report it to the police (and only expressed regret when people were outraged about it). And acting its role as the Chorus in this Greek Tragedy of the Obama Administration, Harvey Weinstein is claiming Hollywood is the best judges of moral character.

Glad to see the Obama Administration's priorities are so focused! Seriously, this is what it must have been like when Rome was declining.

Revenant said...

Considering the number of classical nudes of girls and boys at the same development, there is a real question to be asked about art and nudity.

Certainly. But I would suggest that if the picture began its life by being sold to a porn magazine, it is probably porn. :)

Dave TN said...

I blame Bush.

chickenlittle said...

I blame Bush.

IMO lack of Bush is part of the problem.

Why do nude models have to look pre-pubescent?

bearbee said...

Full photo of photo.......freakish
Spiritual America

Chip Ahoy said...

Doesn't bother me.


Richard Dorment presumes to interpret Richard Prince's "highly ironic" interpretation of American Spirit -- not the haunches of a work horse as Alfred Stieglitz suggests, but rather the -- exploitation is it? -- of girls as sexual dolls. Prince could have easily used Christopher Atkins.

My, those nostrils of yours sure look interesting. You ought to trim them. The writer thinks he knows as much about America as he knows about photography but his bolloxing of the administration shows otherwise and also gratuitously exposes the bias that keeps him rather dull.

But speaking of fine wine -- and we were speaking of it, traditionalguy at 11:09 -- has anyone tried the Vinturi Wine Aerator? A friend described something similar and I believe this is it. It has 212 five-star reviews on Amazon and 43 four-star reviews and none lower, a sample below. I want to get one.

Spells "flavors" with a "u" down there ↓. Ha ha ha Hey, this is America!

I've been using the Vinturi for 5 months now, on a variety of wines ... from a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck", to a nice '98 Vietti Barolo, to a bottle of 97' Phelps Insignia. In every circumstance, with every wine, I've noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the wine when poured through the Vinturi, as opposed to tasted directly from bottle. The flavours are more blended, the finish is less acidic, and frankly, it has made most of the wines I drink a more pleasurable experience, from sniff to swallow. I've conducted several "blind" tastings with friends, and we all agree - this thing works.

traditionalguy said...

It works for real. My son showed it to me, and I was amazed that simply pouring the wine thru the gadget made such a difference. Bon Appetit! PS, The original Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and friends is available at Costco for $24.95.

blake said...

Actually, under Reagan, merely owning such a picture would be a criminal offense.

I think they went a little too far with that. Even a representation of an underaged girl by a woman is illegal now. Or a drawing. Presumably a lot of guys were unwitting felons during Traci Lords porn years.

This guy makes no sense.

Chip Ahoy said...

td, thanks, that seals it then.

Synova said...

Completely random thought after idly wondering from time to time today over the fact that we absolutely insist on sexualizing pre-pubescent children rather than viewing them as essentially sexless and innocent, to run around without a diaper or skinny dip or have a bath together and not immediately think impure thoughts...

Are we this hyper prudish about children as an inverse and equal reaction to a cultural abandonment of adult modesty?

That clip of Shirley Temple and other similarly young children all dressed up in scanty "lady of the night" outfits with boas... it was cute and funny and innocent because of the absurdity. These days it's not just pedophiles who see something else than the ridiculous and I suddenly find that disturbing.

Synova said...

But yes... that photo of Brooke Shields is pretty obviously supposed to be sexual.


Revenant said...

It works for real. My son showed it to me, and I was amazed that simply pouring the wine thru the gadget made such a difference.

I encountered one at an Italian restaurant last week, and I agree -- it is an excellent invention.

BJM said...

I have to join the hijack to add that I've been using a Venturi almost a year and it works, not on all reds, Pinot doesn't aerate especially well, and I still prefer to decant Cab.

However it really makes a difference with the under-$20 Syrah we drink with dinner most nights (2005 Zaca Mesa or 2007 QUPE).

The only problem with the Venturi is that you may drink more wine, if that's a problem.