Barbara Kruger Tests Our Real Estate





“….It is not surprising that most people are comforted by popular depictions,” is what Barbara Kruger once told Richard Prince, regarding her interest in the bold, non-serif, affirmative language of advertising. “Sometimes these images emerge as ‘semblances of beauty’; as confluences of desirous points. They seem to locate themselves in a kind of free zone, offering dispensations from the mundane particularities of everyday life.”

The site of her recent installation at the future site of the Whitney’s new Downtown complex, a location that will thus, like any museum, challenge ideas about “free zones” and “popular depictions” alike. Her commissioned black-and-white text piece is both ornament of a construction zone, and critique of a major architectural project. It’s visible from the pristine, touristed High Line—which is itself destined to deal with the potential for advertising distracting from its primly cultivated wildflowers.

Of the occasion to work here, she says, “My priorities are to introduce doubt (or more doubt) into the everyday, to suggest a consideration of time and place, of history and memory, and of how we are to one another.” Her recent installation, at the future site of the Whitney Museum’s new Downtown site. The site-specific wall text reads, most visibly, “Real Estate/Art/Money/Sex,” which poetically recall the problematic behind Andrea Fraser’s famous video Untitled, in which a collector paid $20,000 to sleep with her and make a videotape of the epxerience. Sex lives not too much further in the background of the Whitney’s move Downtown, although certainly its board is looking at the youthful appeal of the Meatpacking District, versus its historic Upper East Side site.

Kruger’s site here is easily accesible and well touristed, but it is not much-loved in Manhattan. The artist spends much of her time  in Los Angeles, but for over four decades has lived and worked in Lower Manhattan.  She sees the Meat-Packing District as a metaphor for many neighborhoods that have developed here in “As lofts went from the productive sites for small businesses to the working and living spaces of artists, to the lifestyle and shelter choice of the wealthy.” She used to work with a small printing company that produced my early street posters that was located just a block from here. “These are not judgments, but observations,” says Kruger. “I’m not at all nostalgic, but think it’s crucial to engage with the notions of site and history.”