Lot 275
  • 275

Barbara Kruger

Estimate
200,000 - 300,000 USD
Sold
502,000 USD
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Description

  • Barbara Kruger
  • Untitled (Our prices are insane!)
  • photographic silkscreen on vinyl
  • 98 ½ x 97  5/8  inches

Provenance

Galerie Philomene Magers, Berlin
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2006

Exhibited

Buenos Aires, MALBA Fundación Costantini, Bye Bye American Pie, March - June 2012, cat. no. 13, pp. 133 and 184, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Stretching eight-feet wide and set off by the artist’s characteristic red border, Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Our prices are insane!) is as arresting in its impactful visual format as it is groundbreaking in its artistic statement. Executed in 1987, by which time Kruger had established herself as a successful artist in a decade that celebrated ‘art stars’ and openly acknowledged art as an investment, Kruger boldly decided to confront the relationship between consumption and culture and the commodification of the latter to which she was complicit. Mimicking ad-speak and invoking a borderline manic tone, Untitled exposes the inescapable conditions involved in contemporary production in a manner that is witty, provoking and visually explosive.

Since the 1970s, Kruger’s work has consistently challenged social, political and sexual boundaries whilst encouraging viewers to question traditional socio-cultural concepts. Combining commercial advertising techniques with photo collage constructed by ‘found’ pictures, Kruger utilizes concise, evocative wording to imbue her works with a multiplicity of meaning, leading to an often powerful disjunction between lexicographical implication and image.  Having worked as a graphic designer for Mademoiselle magazine during the late 1960s, Kruger’s conflation of image and text within her work was strongly inspired by her own advertising experience. The composition of Untitled is dramatically framed by a red border that signals to the viewer, ‘Stop! This is a sign to be read and observed!’ Kruger defined her distinctive practice in 1981, claiming that it was “To question the seemingly natural appearance of images through the textual commentary which accompanies them.” (the artist cited in: Hal Foster et. al., Barbara Kruger, New York, 2010, p. 18)

Untitled (Our prices are insane!) is a significant example of Kruger’s practice during the early 1980s. Here, the exaggerated wild eyes and bloodied face of a horror film victim-cum-shocked consumer stare aghast behind the screaming text “Our prices are insane!” Building on a 1940s Hollywood horror still, she constructs her final image like a master 'Ad man', cropping, overlaying, enlarging and framing the image and text to maximum impact. The square vinyl, black-and-white filmic image and cropping all imitate television’s format. Kruger packages her message using the most immediate and relevant channel possible; she acknowledges that in the post-war era, TV reigned as the predominant media outlet and the privacy of the home was no longer sacred. The television set offered unfettered access to the American consumer. The text can be read in two ways. The first, as a pure lifting from ad-speak meaning "Stop and look! Our prices are insanely LOW." Read within the context of the art market - gallery and auction space - the text takes on a more critical and self-reflective tenor. Further, discussing the ubiquity of the commodity, Kruger explains that it is: “Around everywhere, from the baroque shopping palaces of the late 19th century to the contemporary suburban merchandise behemoths. The pedestrian traffic within these structures resembles a carefully punctuated and at times graceful dance of acquisition performed against a familiar backdrop; the seamless exposition of the market commodity.” (the artist quoted in: Love for Sale: The Words and Pictures of Barbara Kruger, New York, 1990, p. 76) In its thought-provoking message and highly charged use of imagery and text, Untitled (Our prices are insane!) distills the quintessence of Kruger’s practice and concerns.

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