What I admire most about Jeff Koons is that he doesn’t have any martyr-like qualities that are so consistent with other contemporary artists. He set out to make beautiful things, acquire currency, get famous, and had no qualms about it. What he does is take banal and overused middle class objects (such as the balloon animal or Hummel figure) and transforms it into something that not only captures the spotlight- but is extremely reproducible and marketable.
While he states there is “no hidden meaning in his works,” the reflective pieces are quite obviously produced with the intention of seeing oneself in the art. You are the consumer. You are the object. You are contemporary America, and the audience the museum just got an admission fee out of.
Critics vary on his pieces. Some dismiss it as extremely cynical and self-promotional, while others say it truly speaks to our time. I think he’s the man. Someone who has enough balls to take out advertisements on himself in well-known art magazines and referring to himself in the third person should not be passed off as a narcissist- but someone who knows that such artistic guerilla tactics were uncharted waters and extremely viable. After his first works became popular and Koons became a well known name, his first instinct was to figure out a way to become more famous. The most well-known people on the planet are movie stars, so he made a poster series staring himself and models advertising for fake porn films. He also became quite smitten with an Italian porn star Ilona Staller and during their brief marriage used her to model x-rated and pornographic statues, paintings and photographs. She was also a member of the Italian parliament for several years, and known for giving topless speeches. When the marriage dissolved, Ilona took their baby Ludwig to Italy and refused Koons access. He has been trying to see his child ever since, but the courts have refused admission. This winter he is partnering up with Kiehl’s and designing the labels for a set of body lotions with an intended charitable purpose. “100% of Kiehl’s net profits from the sale of each product will benefit The Koons Family Institute, an initiative of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).”
He recently had a show at Versailles, where pieces of his art were integrated throughout the palace- an ironic juxtaposition between the luxuries of today and the former French aristocracy. I also just did a final about him, hence the random post.The first time I saw his work, I was a little girl at the ICA Boston right after it opened. I don’t remember much about the trip, other than that the museum was on a wharf and my brother and I found a gym bag that contained batting gloves, rope, and a hammer. (The area is still 2000 times safer than Philly) The one piece of artwork from that trip that still vividly resonates with me is Koons’ bunny; a silver metal replica of a bunny balloon animal. I was at first perplexed that they would put such an object in the museum, and was shocked to learn it was crafted out of metal. It makes sense that a little girl would be attracted to such an object, without knowing she was really intended to see herself within a purely self-serving and mass produced piece of art.
I can live off of selling their fur to the cardigan-and-other-winter-necessities industry, and be thoroughly amused the entire time. If that doesn’t work out, I can always move to France and take up truffle hunting with my pack of teacup piglets.