3 More

Untitled (We will no longer be your favorite disappearing act)

Untitled (We will no longer be your favorite disappearing act)
black and white photograph, in artist's frame
73 x 47 1/4 in. (185.4 x 120 cm.)
Executed in 1984. This work is unique.
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Oliver-Hoffmann collection, Chicago
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 2008, lot 408
Private collection
Anon. sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 13 May 2010, lot 439
L & M Arts, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Krannert Art Museum at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Slices of Life: The Art of Barbara Kruger, October-November 1986, n.p. (illustrated).
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, "Three Decades: The Oliver-Hoffmann Collection," December 1988-February 1989.

Brought to you by

Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“In the broadest sense, I try to make work about how we are to one another: work that engages our adorations, contempt, pleasures, and punishments.” - Barbara Kruger

Composed of the artist’s signature combination of striking image and provocative text, contained within a fiery hand-painted frame, Untitled (We will no longer be your favorite disappearing act) is an unrivaled early work from within Barbara Kruger’s storied career. With its impressive scale, and mirroring the inclusive feeling of real space for the viewer, Untitled… refuses to disappear, as the title suggests. It is a testament to the timeless power of Kruger’s career as it continues to be as relevant today as it was in the 1980s, and stands as proof of her status as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

Untitled features Kruger’s iconic use of text and image as she combines a gleaming hand with manicured nails and an ornate ring on its finger with inflammatory words. Likely a woman’s hand, it reaches out to gently touch something that is in the process of disintegration. This cinematic touch recalls Kruger’s own hand as she constructs the red frame that graces the work. Though her source imagery is often productively difficult to discern, it could be that it comes from a film still, advertising images or some other piece of popular culture.

Evoking a scene from the 1943 film Crystal Ball (the tell-tale ring on the figure is similar to one worn in the movie), the whole scene has exploded into a beautiful field of stars, suggesting that the moment of touch or connection here is fleeting. Additionally, Kruger’s text is larger at the top than at the bottom, creating a play of scale and an architectural quality, which have always been important to her work. As always, the “we” to which she refers is indiscernible, but there is always a universality in her collaged statements. As Kruger notes in a recent interview, “I seldom create issue-specific works. In the broadest sense, I try to make work about how we are to one another: work that engages our adorations, contempt, pleasures, and punishments” (O.C. Yerebekan, “Indirect Directness: Barbara Kruger Interviewed by Osman Can Yerebakan,” BOMB, October 26, 2022,

“I see my work as a series of attempts to ruin certain representations, to displace the subject and to welcome a female spectator into the audience of men.” - Barbara Kruger, in "Review: Barbara Kruger, Art of Representation, Woman's Art Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, Spring-Summer 1987, p. 40.

In Untitled, Kruger could refer to the human condition of feeling invisible, or fearing that life is just an extended disappearing act with an inevitable ending. And yet, there is always empathy in her montages and photographs despite the seriousness of her subject matter, for to enunciate our greatest fears is to allow for moments of empathy.

Untitled is the product of an important moment in Kruger’s career. In 1982, she opened her first exhibition at Gagosian in Los Angeles and soon mounted her first institutional show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. In 1984, the same year as the creation of the present work, Kruger also undertook a collaboration with the late African American fashion designer Willi Smith. Four decades later, her work is equally influential. Her critically acclaimed travelling retrospective (2021-2023) recently began at the Art Institute of Chicago, and travelled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Her work was also included in The Milk of Dreams at La Biennale di Venezia (2022).

Kruger refuses to be a disappearing act, and her work continues to inspire, challenge, and provoke. With works such as the present example, she has solidified a place for herself in a constantly shifting art historical landscape. For over forty years, Kruger has pushed the limits of what art can be, drawing it closer to the joys and tragedies of everyday life. In Untitled (We will no longer be your favorite disappearing act), she asks us to refuse to disappear, to cherish our indelible contributions to the world.

More from 21st Century Evening Sale

View All
View All