Book Nerds: Richard Prince

A series on interesting book collectors and readers.

Richard Prince is among my favorite of contemporary artists. His Marlboro Man changed the way I thought about art and his autographed photos remain among the high points of New York clever school of art.

Prince’s Untitled (Cowboy)
A piece from the autograph series.

Prince’s work is now amongst the most expensive by a living artist. One of his Nurse paintings sold in 2011 for over 8 million dollars.  Prince funnels a good chunk of that money back into his very serious book collection.

His collection, housed in a climate controlled vault in upstate New York, is wide ranging. It includes a signed first edition of Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov’s desk copy of the Olympia Edition of Lolita, and Bridget Berlin’s legendary, handmade, Cock Book.

As Prince explains, “Basically, my collection is about sex, drugs, beats, hippies, punks. . . And great reads.” It is said to be among the best collections of post war American literature in private hands.

The original idea for the collection was American literature from Prince’s birth in 1949 to 1984. But the collection has expanded a bit beyond that at this point. Rumor has it he is in the process of cataloging it and will perhaps donate it to the Morgan library or some other institution. I hope so; I’d love to see the hand corrections Vlad did on Lolita.

Prince features some images of the collection on his website. If you’re into post- war American art and literature, its really worth a look. Check out the stack of Tulsa’s (hardcover, $200), the various editions of the Americans (first edition ~$1200), multiple copies of the first Search and Destroy, what appears to be a complete run of the pulp classic Black Mask, a bunch of Jim Thompson first editions and much, much more.

That a guy with this kind of money spends it creating a collection that involves both scores of trashy lesbian exploitation novels  and Vlad’s desk copy of Lolita, amuses me to no end.

On a personal note, I’ve got a couple of Prince’s books myself. Two monographs, including the one issued for his retrospective at the Guggenheim, plus an edition of his book Why I Go to the Movies Alone bought for four dollars at a thrift store and currently going for about two hundred on Amazon.

Further reading on Prince collection can be found here, and here.

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