SOCI327: 1

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Cultural Guide:

Thirty are better than one, at least in Warhol’s [1963] handling of Leonardo’s portrait. Recognizing that the Mona Lisa had become a celebrity akin to Marilyn Monroe, he proposed that fame was a commodity, and that the endless replication of a celebrity’s face made it so. His industrial process mimicked the mechanism by which people become products, and the end-result revealed the degree to which consumers are active participants, mentally filling in enough details to identify Warhol’s raw silkscreen with Leonardo’s sfumato portrait. In Thirty Are Better Than One, the Mona Lisa is reduced to a pattern, like paisley or toile de jouy: perfectly flat, potentially infinite.

Barbara Kruger’s [1985 work] ‘Untitled (When I hear the word culture I take out my checkbook)’, one of the most explosive and defining provocations in the artist’s oeuvre, riffs on a line from a play by the Nazi-era sympathizer Hans Johst, “Whenever I hear the word ‘Culture,’ I reach for my revolver,” an oft-intoned phrase of Nazi ideologists during the period. Disturbing for its association with Hitler’s Germany, it underscores the seriousness of Kruger’s project.

(This catalogue entry from Christie’s seems to be unaware that, whilst the reference to Johst is indeed present, Kruger is likely to be more directly evoking dialogue from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film ‘Contempt’).