Barbara Kruger, Who owns what? 1991/2012 Second floor

Diagram showing connecting artworks in the Barbara Kruger room, part of Constellations at Tate Liverpool
Constellation of artworks in the Kruger display

Trained initially as a graphic designer, Kruger aims to challenge the viewer’s expectations through striking juxtapositions of found photographs and provocative sloganeering text. She criticises the spectacle of mass-media imagery while taking advantage of its powerful capacity for communication. Her work exploits an economy of image and text to question the power-based relations and concepts that underpin socio-political structures.

Who owns what? 1991/2012 portrays a large left hand, the thumb and index finger pinching a rectangular prism complete with the bold, oblique slogan WHO OWNS WHAT? The composition shows her signature style, white letters superimposed over a black-and-white image with a stark red border. The sheer size of the work implies the importance of this issue. Given Kruger’s commitment to feminism, we can assume the question ‘Who owns what?’ is tied to the artist’s views on gender inequality in terms of corporate, material and intellectual ownership.

The constellation extends the concerns of Kruger’s work by considering ideas of subversion and infiltration by artists into zones that were formerly considered safe, as well as the construction of reality and the power of images and words.

Word cloud showing a snapshot of shared characteristics for artworks in the Kruger constellation display at Tate Liverpool

Word cloud showing a snapshot of shared characteristics for artworks in the Kruger constellation display

See also