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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Image World: Property from a Private American Collection

Untitled (Your Manias Become Science)

Untitled (Your Manias Become Science)
black and white photograph, in artist's frame
49 x 61 ½ in. (124.5 x 156.2 cm.)
Executed in 1981. This work is the artist's proof aside from an edition of one.
Skarstedt Fine Art, New York
Private collection
Anon. sale: Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 11 November 2005, lot 176
Private collection, San Francisco
Haunch of Venison, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009
K. Linker, Love For Sale - Barbara Kruger, New York 1990, p. 53.
C. Owens et al., Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture, Berkeley, 1994, p. 194.
C. Bromberg, "Barbara Kruger," New York Magazine, vol. 30, no. 42, 3 November 1997, p. 46.
D. McCarthy, American Artists Against War, 1935-2010, Berkeley, 2015, p. 114.
London, Institute of Contemporary Art; Bristol, Watershed; Villeurbanne, Nouveau Musee and Kunsthalle Basel, We Won't Play Nature to your Culture - Barbara Kruger, November 1983-June 1984, p. 51 (another example from the edition exhibited and illustrated).
Illinois, Krannert Art Museum, Slices of Life - The Art of Barbara Kruger, October-November 1986, p. 8 (a smaller variant exhibited.)
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Image World - Art and Media Culture, November 1989-February 1990, p. 116 (another example from the edition exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The American Century - Art & Culture 1950-2000, September 2000-February 2001, p. 281 (another example from the edition exhibited and illustrated).
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Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

One of her most potent and visually arresting images, Untitled (Your Manias Become Science) ranks among Barbara Kruger’s most iconic works, alongside Your Body is a Battleground, 1985 (The Broad, Los Angeles) and I Shop Therefore I Am, 1983 (Private Collection). The powerful combination of imagery and text illustrates one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, the detonation of an atomic bomb, but does so with shocking alacrity. Ever since she emerged onto the art scene as part of the Pictures Generation, Kruger has become one of the most insightful and prescient critical voices. Currently the subject of a major retrospective organized by the Art Institute of Chicago (and which will travel to the LA County Museum of Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2022), with this work, Kruger offers up a chilling reminder of humankind’s capacity for both innovation and destruction, as she continues to challenge and critique the underlying power structures that underpin our daily lives.

In Untitled (Your Manias Become Science), Kruger has enlarged the grainy black-and-white photograph of the billowing mushroom cloud to nearly life-sized proportions. Measuring just over five feet wide, her large-scale photograph exposes the dot-matrix printing of the original image that appeared in newspapers all over the world. Kruger overlays the central image with the enigmatic phrase “Your manias become science,” using the bold san-serif font that has become her signature motif. She divides the phrase and re-combines it, collage-style, over the grainy, black-and-white photograph, with “Your science” appearing larger and highlighted in white.
Your manias become science […] also alludes to the charged nature of the word “science” in our present-day vocabulary, reminding us of Kruger’s own Cassandra-like ability to hone in on the issues that continue to define and shape our role as citizens in a postmodern world.

Encased by the artist’s cherry-red frame, Untitled (Your Manias Become Science) is one of the most graphically menacing in Kruger’s entire oeuvre. It drives home the low-level, yet ever-present, threat of nuclear annihilation that accompanies every aspect of contemporary life. Kruger’s source image is actually taken from a test conducted at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1946, although it’s visually nearly identical to that which appeared in newspapers after the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By combining two phrases of disparate sizes and colors, Kruger’s text appears to have been spliced together by an amateur rather than an official media outlet. In this way, Kruger hints at the fact that nearly every news story is essentially a manufactured narrative. This is especially potent considering the role of the news in shaping the understanding of U.S. foreign policy in the postwar era. Her text along the lower register—Your manias become science—seems to anticipate the headline news banners that accompany today’s 24-hour news cycle. It also alludes to the charged nature of the word “science” in our present-day vocabulary, reminding us of Kruger’s own Cassandra-like ability to hone in on the issues that continue to define and shape our role as citizens in a postmodern world.
In the mid-1960s, Kruger studied at Syracuse University for a year, and later at Parsons School of Design, where she took classes with the photographer Diane Arbus. She ultimately dropped out of school and began working for Mademoiselle magazine. Within a year, she became their chief designer even though she was only 22 years old at the time. It was in working for magazines like Mademoiselle, and later Aperture and House and Garden, that she learned how to create the visually seductive images that she later made the focus of her mature artwork.

“I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are, what we want to be and who we become.” Barbara Kruger

Kruger was thirty-six and living in her Tribeca loft when she made the present work in 1981. That year would prove to be the launching point for her career. In September, she was included in “Public Address” at Annina Nosei Gallery in SoHo, an important group show that famously included not only Kruger, but also Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Jenny Holzer. The following year, Larry Gagosian gave Kruger a solo exhibition at his Los Angeles gallery, and she was invited to Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany, and to the 40th Venice Biennale. In 1983, she was given her first museum show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. That exhibit was organized by Iwona Blazwick, the curator and now Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, who selected Untitled (Your Manias Become Science) for the show.

The visual gut-punch that Untitled (Your Manias Become Science) continues to exert is as poignant today as it was forty years ago, reminding viewers of Kruger’s ongoing capacity to expose those issues most pressing to contemporary existence. The current retrospective of the artist’s work at the Art Institute of Chicago will further enhance the validation, recognition and support for this supremely talented artist.

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