The loads of people who know me as a boring old traditionalist (Turner Prize?! Yah boo hiss!) are always surprised when I say I actually love Jeff Koons. I really do, and enjoyed his new show, cleverly titled Now! at Damien Hirst’s gorgeously lovely wonderful awesome Newport Street Gallery. The reason being is that he is the epitome of what Andy Warhol snarkily hinted at back in the 60s and 70s: “Good business is the best art”. Koons is a businessman, and his work represents the ultimate product that is oh so colourful and shiny and conspicuous in the collector’s home; the corporate cavernous foyer; the white box of the contemporary gallery.
What pisses me off is the perennial buying into the product unknowingly, without getting the cold hard aluminium polished irony. Part of the whole deal is how completely meaningless this stuff is. The hyperreal paintings done by the studio, the ginormous polished metal and plastics of the sculptures are specifically designed to appeal to our basest visual instincts; they are instantly marketable and anyone can instantly like them, with only the merest passing reference to deeper meaning. Just like when I last walked past the Halcyion gallery in New Bond St; it is filled with brightly coloured shiny stuff more often than not, such as Warhol prints, a shiny rhino, or shiny bright plastic jelly baby sculptures. As a friend once said, they might as well be selling cars. What Koons talks about when explaining his meaning is deliberately waffly, pseudo-philosophical claptrap, lampooning the idea that all art has to actually mean something.
I have no problem with this: it is the irony upon which all of his work rests, and part of the best marketing and publicity strategy supporting his work. If he’s accused of plagiarizing other works, all the better for publicity. But what annoys me – and this is where I sound like the ranting troll against the world – is that either no one else gets this, or that everyone does get it but is keeping shtum. Koons knows that the text is piffle, but I pity the poor gallery that has to put it in the catalogues, sell the catalogues and print in all its promo material – even talk about it with a straight face – effectively buying into the game. To demonstrate what I mean, here are some gems from the horse’s mouth:
Discussing Equilibrium: “It’s about being human … the basketball is the womb. It’s another ultimate state of being, but unlike ‘The New’, where this aspect is after birth, here it is prebirth”.
Discussing The New: “These objects ae very clean … and they need control. … Control lies inside closed systensm outside everything is so free and possible. But these objects are prepared to survive”.
Discussing Made in Heaven as “The biological eternal .. the preservation of life, the continuation of life”.
Art bullshit never was so perfectly sublime.
Photo: Newport Street Gallery via facebook
To mark the opening of the new exhibition, Newport Street Gallery will launch its new ‘Summer Lates’ opening hours, which will see the gallery remaining open until 10pm every Saturday from this weekend (21st May).