Barbara Kruger was making the art we need today in 1990

Who dies first? Who laughs last? Kruger’s iconic piece, Untitled (Questions), was reinstalled this week at MOCA.


In the two years since the election–yes, it’s been two years, somehow–a massive amount of art has been made about politics in America. But a Barbara Kruger piece from 1990, back when Donald Trump was busy bankrupting casinos in Atlantic City, still hits harder.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions), 1989-90, on view from June 29, 1990–July 1992 on the south wall of the Temporary Contemporary, MOCA, Los Angeles, courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. [Photo: Gene Ogami/courtesy MOCA]

The piece, Untitled (Questions), is a list of nine questions rendered across the 30-foot-tall wall of the Museum of Contemporary Art‘s Geffen building in downtown Los Angeles:

Who is beyond the law? Who is bought and sold? Who is free to choose? Who does time? Who follows orders? Who salutes the longest? Who prays the loudest? Who dies first? Who laughs last?

The piece was first installed in 1990, when MOCA was just 11 years old. An anonymous donor paid for the mural to be resurrected ahead of the midterm elections, but the museum has plans to leave it up until the 2020 presidential elections. On its Instagram, MOCA posted a series of videos of the installation, which will be complete this weekend, accompanied by information about voter registration.

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???????????? ???????? ???????????????????????? ???????????? ????????????? . MOCA is thrilled to announce that #BarbaraKruger’s work Untitled (Questions) is being installed on the north facing wall of MOCA Geffen! In connection with the work, a series of voter registration efforts will be anchored by the artwork in advance of the 2018 midterms, as well as the 2020 general election. October 22 is the last day to register online to vote in California–click the link in our bio to see the deadline to register in your state, and whether you can do so electronically. And check out our❓highlighted story to read an exclusive interview with Kruger by @cmonstah in the @LATimes. . The work includes nine questions such as “Who is beyond the law?”, “Who is bought and sold?”, and “Who is free to choose?” The artwork uses these questions to point to issues of patriotism, civic engagement, and power relations. The work will remain on view through November of 2020. This installation is the first public facing project since the appointment of @KlausBiesenbach as MOCA’s new director and reflects his commitment to the museum’s active engagement in civic dialogue, democratic participation, and community activation. . [Photo courtesy of Troyese Robinson]

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Kruger’s work has remained incredibly powerful through the decades, a reminder that the things we’re debating today–patriotism, fascism, sexism, war, and the prison industrial complex, for starters–aren’t novel in the least. In a statement, Kruger described the enduring relevance of Untitled (Questions), saying, “It’s both tragic and disappointing that this work, 30 years later, might still have some resonance.”

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.