Prince William: Marry Me?

Put a Ring On It! Artist Jennifer Rubell Brings the Royal Proposal to the Masses

Inspired by the media madness surrounding Prince William’s impending marriage to Kate Middleton, artist Jennifer Rubell’s “Engagement” invites you to play princess. Opening at Stephen Friedman Gallery this week, Rubell’s installation transforms the betrothed future king into a wax sculpture a la Madame Tussaud; Middleton may be absent from his arm, but Prince Charming is bearing a mock-up of his late mother’s 18-carat sapphire and diamond ring. Visitors are encouraged to step right up and try the bauble on for size—acting out that most enduring of fairytale scenes. Rubell is known for employing edible materials in her work to dispel art's "unapproachable" mystique, and this sculpture uses the iconic heirloom to similar effect. Photographer Estelle Hanania shot sculptor Daniel Druet as he helped bring the Prince to waxy life, and NOWNESS talked to Rubell about synthetic sapphire and the power of touch.  

The sculpture is modeled on the royal couple's engagement photo, although you have excised Kate. What is it about the image that spoke to you?

What struck me about that photo is that William is really a solo statue. Kate is putting her arm through his and showing the ring. In some ways it’s a portrait of the future king: his predecessor [by name], William IV, is hanging above and he’s below. The position Kate takes is very much in relation to him as the central figure. I found that fascinating.

How does it affect you on a personal level?

No woman sees that story and doesn’t imagine herself as Kate. The idea that you can marry a prince… it’s in our DNA. I have a daughter who’s five and she likes that idea—she doesn’t even know what a prince is and she likes it.

You’re inviting people to try on the ring. What do you hope will happen?

I’m using this pre-existing iconic moment to get people to touch a sculpture. That’s the master plan. The ring is so compelling that people will step up onto the pedestal and interact with this sculpture—for me, that’s a triumph, to transgress this boundary about not touching art. 

What is the ring made of?

It’s a replica made of synthetic sapphire—which, in terms of the compound, is identical to sapphire, except it’s man-made—and the diamonds are cubic zirconia.

How did growing up around art influence your work?

Art is in my DNA. But at the same time I have a lot of anger toward that upbringing. It was untouchable in every way—I would have been an artist when I was ten if I didn’t have Jeff Koons sitting across from me at the dinner table making it seem so impossible. Sacred. Untouchable. Everything I do is a correction of that situation.

 To read more about Prince William and his pedestal, visit our Facebook page here.

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