Di­vide And Rule

De­ci­pher­ing the mind of Jeff Koons

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - News - By Rachel Campb ell-John­ston.

Jeff Koons is the king of kitsch. Bring­ing to­gether his ex­pe­ri­ences sell­ing brightly wrapped sweets and a fas­ci­na­tion for Dalí’s Sur­re­al­ist tricks, he fo­cuses on the triv­ial pro­duc­tions of post­mod­ern so­ci­ety and turns them into revered ob­jets d’art. Bas­ket­balls, vac­uum clean­ers, and cud­dly teddy bears have all been the fo­cus of his at­ten­tion. He’s mak­ing Pop Art’s satir­i­cal point: ex­pos­ing the su­per­fi­cial­ity of con­sumer cul­ture and re­veal­ing how se­duc­tively its ar­ti­fi­cial­ity can be sold to us. But his works also turn the “ready made” – a fun­da­men­tal Mod­ernist con­cept – into a crowd-pleaser. Duchamp is given Dis­ney ap­peal. This is what makes him the most suc­cess­ful US artist since Andy Warhol.

To some, Koons re­mains the liv­ing epit­ome of the naked em­peror. He is barely a real artist, de­clared critic Robert Hughes; just a grotesque ma­nip­u­la­tor of the mar­kets, with the “slimy as­sur­ance ... of a blow-dried Bap­tist sell­ing swamp acres in Florida”. But, bar an early 1990s slump when crit­i­cal con­sen­sus rounded on his ‘Made in Heaven’ show (a se­ries of porno­graphic pho­to­graphs of the artist in fla­grante with his lus­cious then-wife) and dismi dis­missed him as a burnt-out tal­ent, his prices h have re­mained as el­e­vated as his self-be­lief. In 2007, his “Hang­ing Heart” metal ball bal­loon sold for USD23.6 mil­lion (RM76 m mil­lion), a record for any liv­ing artistN artist at auc­tion at the time.

Now the 58-year-old is about to stage a tri­umphal tour. This year, a ret­ro­specti ret­ro­spec­tive span­ning his 35-year ca­reer and in­cor­po­rat­ing in­cor 120 of his works – paint­ings, prints, pho­to­graphs, draw­ings, and sc sculp­tures – will visit New York and Paris. What­ever line this ret­ro­spec­tive draws un­der his ca­reer, Koons has yet to run o out of steam. Even as he seems as­sured of his place on the con­tem­po­rary scene, he ap­pears to be striv­ing to ce­ment his name into the art-his­tor­i­cal canon. Re­cent works toy with the imagery of Clas­si­cal sculp­ture, a sign per­haps that the Pop Arts supremo is mov­ing into loftier aes­thetic spheres. ‘Jeff Koons’ is at the Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art (www.whit­ney.org) un­til Oc­to­ber 19 and the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou from Novem­ber 26 to April 27, 2015. www.cen­tre­pom­pi­dou.fr

Jeff Koons in his Man­hat­tan stu­dio

“Puppy” at the Guggen­heim Mu­seum Bil­bao

Cat On A Clothes­line, 1994-2001

Hang­ing Heart, 1994-2006

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