LVMH Art Talks, Part 3: Barbara Kruger for Whitewall
For the last talk, on October 16, guests were greeted by the spectacular panoramic view of Los Angeles afforded by Mr. Deitch’s home in the Hollywood Hills. It was an ideal setting for the finale of the series, and by that point anyone who had attended either of the previous talks or head another about them knew to arrive in plenty of time for the first course: a survey of the curator’s own collection of art and furnishings, which proved to be as fantastic as one would expect of the director fo the Museum of Contemporary Art. With warm sunshine, clear skies, and the pool a distinct shade of blue, the scene was so picture-perfect you half-expected to find David Hockney there, floating in an inflatable lounge chair—you never know, given the principals involved.
Considering their thirty-five-year relationship, Deitch’s conversation with Kruger proved to be one of the most revealing of the series, and it certainly was. Kruger began by talking about her childhood in New Jersey, and, while looking at the slide of an old magazine ad of a woman standing in her kitchen, she joked about growing up in “a time when every woman had an apron on—and now they have nothing on.” She went on to share her self-doubts, as an autodidact, a self-taught artist who started her career as a graphic designer at various Condé Nast magazines, where she received an incredible education, working with Morgan Israel and “Dick” Avedon.
The more revealing Kruger began, the more difficult it was to get one’s bearings, listening to this world-famous artist reveal the intimidation she first felt when she entered the art world, her feelings of being an outsider even after being included in a Whitney Biennial, and her doubts about not having the right credentials, pedigree, or education.
Maybe one shouldn’t be surprised by such juxtapositions, whether they be Kruger’s humility and ferocity, or the genuine awe she feels in her own success, or the incredible moment, when, behind them, onscreen, Deitch shared an image from Kruger’s phenomenal exhibition at St. Peter’s Church in Cologne, offset by the artist’s response: “I believe in doubt.” Whatever her personal doubts, in her passion, conviction, intelligence, and articulate ness, she made you sit up in your chair—her thoughts moving seamlessly from her lifelong passion for architecture to the crisis of narrative to the role of advertising and Roland Barthes in her world and her remorse that “The power of photography is frequently used and abused.”
She discussed what she believes, despite all claims to the contrary, are the incredible similarities between New YOrk City and Los Angeles and the incalculable value of empathy, while the room looked at a photo of Kruger’s show “Power, Pleasure, Desire, Disgust,” held at Deitch Projects in 1997. The final image read: “I shop, therefore I am,” at which point Jeffrey Deitch suggested, “Good place to end.” Indeed.
Asked what was most rewarding about the series, Deitch said, “ Everyone, the artists, especially, took it so seriously and were so well-prepared (that) the dialogues were at an exceptionally high level. And it was very special for me, to hav this intimate conversation with Barbara . . . It was a truly personal experience.” That is how it felt, and that was exactly how many guests described the event, despite being seated in the audience. From Currin’s soft-spokenness, to Ruscha’s plainspokenness, to Kruger’s outspokenness, what they shared was that each artist spoke with a humility so genuine it was contagious, leaving one feeling humbled and grateful to be present.
And now, having been scaled down to size (times three), this big idea will be enlarged again, with all proceeds of the Louis Vuitton MOCA Art Talks series benefitting the Louis Vuitton Visiting Artist Program, an education initiative that, in addition to giving the public access to discussions and seminars, will bring new and emerging artists into the Los Angeles public schools. Fait accompli.