141.8 x 257.3 x 6.6 cm (55 7/8 x 101 1/4 x 2 5/8 in)
This work is unique.
£200,000 - 300,000
Sold for £253,250
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Provenance Mary Boone Gallery, New York Collection of BMG Bertelsmann Christie's, New York, 'Post-War and Contemporary (Afternoon Session)', 15 May 2002, lot 371 Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
"I think what I’m trying to do is create moments of recognition. To try to detonate some kind of feeling or understanding of lived experience.” Barbara Kruger
"I just say I’m an artist who works with pictures and words." Barbara Kruger
“Making art is about objectifying your experience of the world, transforming the flow of moments into something visual, or textual, or musical, whatever. Art creates a kind of commentary.” (Barbara Kruger) Untitled (Look and listen), from 1996, is a seminal work by Barbara Kruger, one of the most prominent postmodern feminist artists of the 1970s and 80s. Kruger’s art has been greatly influenced by years working in the art departments of publisher Condé Nast as graphic designer, art director and picture editor. These graphic skills, perfected at the start of the artist’s career, allow Kruger to skillfully juxtapose found or created photographic images with text in order to create new meanings and interpretations relevant to society at large.
The present lot is a powerful example of the way in which Kruger has used text to address the viewer. This text is written in Kruger’s signature Futura Bold Oblique font in white on a red background. Kruger creates the language that represents a voice of a woman addressing the man, suggesting that even suppressed women will find the way to communicate their feelings and desires. Here, Kruger asks the viewers to ‘look’ and ‘listen’ to women, and urges society to treat them equally to men. In oppostion to the objectification of women evident throughout the history of art and film, Kruger puts the focus on women, allocating them an equal role in contemporary society to that of men, and freeing them from the so-called ‘male gaze’. Kruger has explained this purpose behind her work: “my attempts aim to undermine that singular pontificating male voice-over which ‘correctly’ instructs our pleasures and histories or lack of them. I am wary of the seriousness and confidence of knowledge. I am concerned with who speaks and who is silent: with what is seen and what is not” (the artist quoted in B. Kruger, et. al., Barbara Kruger, Rizzoli, 2010, p. 193).
Kruger’s body of work is multilayered in its complexity; it addresses not only the issues of sexism, but also consumerism, individualism, alienation, power and numerous other human desires. The text used by the artist to create the message becomes the intrinsic part of the work not only visually but also conceptually. Kruger creates work about our society, with its virtues and its vices: “I don’t know if [empathy] has been wired into us. But I mean I’ve never been engaged with the war of the sexes. It’s too binary. The good versus the bad. Who’s the good?” (the artist quoted in Ron Rosenbaum, ‘Barbara Kruger’s Artwork Speaks Truth to Power’, Smithsonian Magazine, July-August 2012). The phrase ‘look and listen’ that addresses the viewer directly way, may be variously interpreted – it could also be an encouragement to people in today’s age of alienation inside the cosmopolitan cities, the age when individualism has reached its peaks, to be more humane and sensitive to people around them – to give way to empathy. By posing questions about every aspect of our culture throughout her oeuvre, Kruger is writing her own narrative that embodies an all-rounded critic of society we live in.