Yesterday, Skarstedt announced that in June, its London gallery would open the first comprehensive show of Prince’s iconic early joke paintings ever to be staged in the U.K., but the artist seemed to be less than pleased. Prince took to his often scaborous Twitter feed to post a screenshot of an email from the gallery and text that read, “I have nothing to do with this show. I was never asked. I can’t stop someone from showing my work. But you could at least wait till I die.” Prince doubled down by making what The Art Newspaper interpreted as a snide remark about KAWS, the polarizing market-friendly former graffiti artist that Per Skarstedt brought onto his stable this year: “Memo to artists: Be careful. Why? Just b-Kaws.” The gallery did not respond to The Art Newspaper’s request for comment.
The famously irreverent Prince has staged similar stunts in the past. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, he disowned a work of his that is in the collection of Ivanka Trump and returned the payment he received for it, saying, “This is not my work. I did not make it. I deny.” He seemed to be at least partially serious then, but with the latest disavowal it is difficult to know—this could all be a provocation from an artist known to be quite fond of provoking. (Recall, if you will, the legal fracas over his Instagram paintings.) While gallerist Per Skarstedt often stages shows of work acquired on the secondary market rather than working directly with the artist, the two do have at least some kind of relationship, as the gallery has staged six Richard Prince solo shows over two decades. The first Prince show at Skarstedt, way back in 1998, was a show of—wait for it—his joke paintings. Perhaps this is all just a joke.