Playing Chicken

A response to Richard Prince

Writing on his blog a few months ago about his dislike of art magazines, the artist Richard Prince commented that frieze is ‘all but unreadable’ and asked: ‘Are they deliberately trying to focus on art that’s made out of chickens?’

It appears that Mr Prince – who is famous for making art out of cowboys, nurses and jokes – has due cause for complaint. A quick search of the frieze ar­chive reveals that in all 157 issues of the magazine to date there have been 129 references to ‘chicken’. This contrasts with only 113 mentions of ‘Richard Prince’ across 22 years of the magazine’s history. As if this wasn’t enough egg on our faces, there have been 5,926 uses of the word ‘hen’ in the pages of frieze and 462 instances of ‘cock’, although precisely which definition of this word was intended in each instance is not always clear.

In light of these figures, it is hard to deny that our editorial agenda is clearly designed to advance a belief in the central role that Gallus gallus domesticus has to play in contemporary art and culture. In our defence, frieze has only cried ‘fowl’ 54 times; ‘turkey’ has received just 79 mentions; and a mere 13 instances of the contribution made to the visual arts by the ‘rooster’ can be found in our back issues. Nods to ‘cockerel’, ‘capon’ and ‘bantam’ have only been given five, four and three times respectively, and we have been careful not to make sweeping generalizations about an entire category of domestic birds, having referred to ‘poultry’ a paltry three times. Should anyone accuse us of Anglocentrism in our treatment of chickens, at least two poulet and one huhn have been spotted in the pages of this magazine. Furthermore, 20 writers have served coq au vin with their criticism. Few readers will be surprised to learn that no reference has ever been made in frieze to the Canadian chantecler, the Greek Chios Fighting Chicken, or the Iranian Manx Rumpy Chicken, and no record either can be found of frieze editors commissioning reviews relating to the Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken. However, many will rightly surmise that these omissions are related to longstanding ideological differences between frieze and Artforum.

Mr Prince laments that he finds the writing in frieze to be ‘all but unreadable’. We are sad to hear this, and would like to offer him a free subscription to our large-print edition, which we hope will help. We would also like to thank Mr Prince once again for his article on the work of Bruce Nauman, which was published in October 2004 in frieze issue 86.

Richard Prince blogs regularly at

Dan Fox is AV Director of frieze and is based in New York. His book Pretentiousness: Why It Matters is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, and Coffee House Press in the US.

Issue 158

First published in Issue 158

October 2013

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