​Installation view of Explore Media Networks. Photograph Copyright Tate 2016; Photograph by Lucy Dawkins

​Photograph © Tate 2016 (Lucy Dawkins)

Room 5 in Media Networks

Barbara Kruger

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Barbara Kruger, Who owns what?  2012

Who Owns What? is a large photographic screenprint on vinyl measuring nearly three metres square. It depicts a hand holding a small box between thumb and forefinger against a plain black background. The provocative question ‘WHO OWNS WHAT?’ is superimposed in white capital letters on a red ground along the box’s side. This object resembles the shape and size of a cigarette packet, with the text covering the space where the brand name would be. As in many of Kruger’s works the large size of the vinyl and the graphic treatment of the text deliberately mimic the language of advertising. To create this work the artist appropriated a found photograph from an existing source and overlaid it with text, addressing a system of visual, linguistic and ideological references associated with the production and selling of commodities. The text speaks directly to the viewer, implying a reconsideration of questions of property and class and commenting on the distribution of economic power in society. The focus on the hand – as a symbolic body part, which conveys specific gestures and behavioural codes – is a recurring motif in many of Kruger’s works, for example Untitled (We Will No Longer Be Seen and Not Heard) 1985 (Tate P77166).

artworks in Barbara Kruger

Art in this room

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Barbara Kruger Who owns what? 2012

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