MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Koonsian Therapy

Jeff Koons, Tulips, 1995–98; private collection © Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Tulips, 1995–98; private collection © Jeff Koons

Reviewing the current Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney, Hal Foster observes that “his readymades have as much to do with display, advertising and publicity as with the commodity per se.”

Notwithstanding Koons’s declaration that “my work is meant to liberate people from judgment,” Foster points to the “kitschy curios of the ‘Banality’ series,” finding that “we are not released from judgment so much as invited to entertain a campy distance from lowbrow desires or even a snobbish contempt for them.”

Ultimately, though, the Pop-infused aesthetic credo that drives Koons

fits in well with the therapy culture long dominant in American society (the only good ego is a strong ego, one that can beat back any unhappy neurosis), but it also suits a neoliberal ideology that seeks to promote our “self-confidence” and “self-worth” as human capital –- that is, as skill-sets we are compelled to develop as we shift from one precarious job to another. When the perfectly presented boy in “The New Jeff Koons” looks into the future, perhaps what he sees is us.

Jerry Saltz reflects:

We live in an art world of excess, hubris, turbocharged markets, overexposed artists, and the eventocracy, where art fairs are the new biennials. Shows like this cost millions of dollars to mount; once they’re up, mass audiences will gawk at the “one of the world’s most expensive living artists.” It becomes a giant ad, and the spectacle of more of Koons’s work up at auction awaits.
As perfectly executed as “A Retrospective” is, it’s also a culmination, a last hurrah of this era —- even as the era keeps going. It is the perfect final show for the Whitney’s building.


Filed under: aesthetics, art exhibition


%d bloggers like this: