Barbara Kruger at Modern Art Oxford

27 July 2014 § Leave a comment

You have already seen Barbara Kruger’s work. Whether you realise it or not is a different matter, but the bold graphic design and powerful statements that typify her work have infiltrated the world of western consumer culture and have strongly influenced the world of media around us. You will recognise it on advertising hoardings, T Shirts, shopping bags and political banners.
Barbara Kruger Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) 1987 - not in show

Barbara Kruger Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) 1987 – not in show

Kruger’s instantly recognisable work combines bold lettering, colours and dramatic juxtapositions of text and image. Through ironic appropriation of specific slogans and imagery she deploys the visual strategies of mass communication in order to challenge the often manipulative logic at work in the language of advertising, television and other media and the role of Western consumerist culture.
Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford
Working since the 1980’s she is considered a vital element of the Pictures Generation – a group of artists including the likes of Richard Prince, John Baldessari, Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine that appropriated images from consumer culture questioning things like gender and identity.
Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Kruger’s latest exhibition at Modern Art Oxford comprises different strands of her work – a site specific text installation, multi-channel video and her trademark collages. The first work that you encounter having ascended the stairs in to the spacious first floor gallery is untitled ‘architectural wrap’ that impressively covers the covers the entire lofty space.

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Over the floor variety of black and white words list supposed categories of people as varied as posers, fatuous fools or survivors. One might be happy to be considered grouped with intellectuals and professors as well as perhaps with doers and winners but to be labelled within sycophants, fatuous fools, jerks or airheads however may not be quite so desirable.

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Here then is a potted selection of labels that we, consciously and unconsciously attach to those around us and Kruger cleverly forces us to consider our complicity in categorising not just ourselves but those around us. On the walls in words up to thirty feet high we are meanwhile invited to ponder statements like Be Here Now, Remember Me or Is That All That There Is

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

In the middle gallery a selection of her 1980’s pasted collages is presented – works that evolved from her work as a Conde Nast designer. Including Talk Is Cheap and You Kill Time these modest black and white pieces set the template for iconic future works like I Shop Therefore I Am or Your Body Is A Battleground.

Barbara Kruger Modern Art Oxford

Finally, Kruger’s video Twelve, 2004 comments on the absurdities of human interaction. Members of staged four-way interactions are projected on to the four walls of the gallery surrounding us. Whilst we see the expressions of the actors and hear their words, their ‘real’ thoughts are presented in written form as a news-channel style ticker-tape across the bottom of the screen challenging any cohesive narrative.

Barbara Kruger is at Modern Art Oxford until 31 August 2014

bonhams takes on christies and sotheby’s with contemporary one

30 January 2012 § 1 Comment

The contemporary art auction market in London has in recent years been a bitter slug-fest between the two ‘big boys’ – Sotheby’s and Christies.  Last year Christies won on points with their total for the three sales – in February, June and October – reaching £167m, only about £3m ahead of Sotheby’s. A distant third is Phillips de Pury whose three sales grossed only (!) £36m.

The new kid on the block is Bonhams but this sounds a strange thing to say since they have been around since 1793. However it is only since 2001, when they came under new ownership that they have started expanding significantly and have steadily eaten in to the larger houses share of the auction market. Contemporary art has never been their strong suit and, following some dabbling in the contemporary market in their hit and miss Vision 21 auctions they have now launched a full-scale assault on the hegemony of the bigger houses. Following the inaugural sale by the new Contemporary Art Department last October – only grossing about £2m but largely successful and 70% sold – thay are offering another closely curated sale of 20 lots with a modest mid-estimate total of around £2.5m.

At first glance this sale could be dismissed as a sale of little importance in the London Contemporary market, but a look at the catalogue shows something more interesting. The catalogue is a beautifully and expensively produced whopper. One hundred and sixty-four pages. For twenty lots. Every lot gets loads of attention and space lavished upon it. Take a nice Alan Davie Little Tut’s Wagon (lot 5) modestly estimated at £25-35k – the artist gets a double page spread for his photo and a couple more devoted to his work, the painting has a double page plus a fold-out – the equivalent to about 8 pages! At Sotheby’s or Christies it might have got a half a page – in the day sale. There are other modestly-priced works – expect them to go well above estimate – and some very interesting higher rated works too – notably Urs Fischer’s Untitled 2006 (lot 10), Frank Auerbach‘s Head of Lucien Freud (lot 6) and Richard Prince’s Untitled (Girlfriend) (lot 15).

The modest number of lots and total value of the sale is, at least in part, deliberate. I was told that Bonhams wish to establish themselves with very successful sales of low to mid value lots, before going full tilt at the market. I wish them every luck, and with such commitment as they show here  who would bet against them becoming a major player in the contemporary market in the coming years. Meanwhile, if you have a contemporary work to sell there looks like only one sensible place to put it at the moment. With such attention and quality of presentation and, dare I venture, some negotiation of commission for good works, Bonhams will be hard to beat.

London Contemporary auction scehdule February 2012

13/14 Feb Bonhams One/Two eve/day

14/15 Feb Christies eve/day

15/16 Sothebys eve/day

17/18 Phillips de Pury eve/day

 

serpentine gallery expansion hits jackpot

1 July 2011 § Leave a comment

An astonishing 4.3 million (myown total from Sothebys gross results) – around double auction estimates – was raised this afternoon for the upcoming extension to the Serpentine gallery. Forty-six top contemporary artists including the likes of John Baldessari, Olafur Eliasson, Fischli & Weiss,  Antony Gormley, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama and Rachel Whiteread had generously donated works to be auctioned alongside Sothebys contemporary art day sale.

Top lot was John Currin‘s Edwardian which raised £713k. Other significant amounts raised included £540k from Richard Prince‘s Untitled and £373k from a work by Takashi Murakimi.

Apparently the new space is to be called the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and will be located in Kensington Gardens, a short distance from the current gallery which lies close to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. It is due to open in 2012, and will be renovated and designed by Pritzker-Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid. The plans include an adjoining pavilion to be used as a social space and restaurant. 

John Currin - Edwardian

If it is anywhere near as good as the Serpentine has been over recent years at presenting interesting exhibitions of contemporary art it will be a great new addition to London’s art world. I am looking forward to the opening – oh, and any invitations to the opening party most welcome!

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