Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hello Koons, Goodbye Whitney

Those of you who follow the arts scene in NYC may know that the Whitney Museum of American Art is moving from its longtime home on Madison and 75th Street on the Upper East Side to a new home, in a new building by the High Line in the Meatpacking District.

I have seen many amazing exhibitions over the years there, including two that I highlighted on this blog back in 2007 from Kara Walker and Rudolf Stingel. I recently visited the uptown Whitney for what is likely to be the last time to see the final exhibition in the space: Jeff Koons. The Museum has given over 4 full floors to his work, making it the biggest show for a single artist in the Museum's history.

Koons is quite the controversial artist on so many levels. Love him or hate him...he certainly inspires reaction and knows how to get publicity. And that is exactly what many (although obviously not all) artists crave. He holds the world record for a living artist at auction.

For those of you who are not in New York and for those of you who might be curious, I wanted to share some pictures from the exhibition. And yes this was one of the few museum shows that allowed picture taking. Publicity after all!

The Museum was packed and everybody was taking pictures.

This Balloon Dog is much like the Orange one that cost a record $58.4 million at auction.

Like much of his work, the highly reflective surface of Balloon Dog calls out for selfies. I have to imagine that hundreds of thousands will be taken by the end of the exhibition. And I somehow think that there is some deeper meaning to the connection between Koons and ready-made selfies.

Here Balloon Dog is reflected in another reflective piece hung on the wall.

It took Koons 20 years to complete Play-Doh, a commissioned piece.

I have to say that it captured the product quite well. I kind of wanted to grab a piece and use it to copy a comic strip from the newspaper like I did as a kid. I guess in some ways, Play-doh was the first product to create image transfers.

I had mostly been familiar with his work that had pristine, smooth surfaces. But there were several pieces that were quite ornate.

This one as well in stainless steel.


Not quite sure what this guy was thinking...

Selfie. Nobody could resist taking them.

This guy was carrying a Gazing Ball, one of a series of sculptures that premiered in 2013.

Some of the work was not reflective.

But it all carried a certain fascination for me.

There were many more of the nearly 150 works that I did not shoot, some of which were NSFW. But I could't miss taking the next shot, which I found by the building next to the Whitney that is undergoing massive renovation.

Jasper's John

Curious to hear what you all think of the artist and his work. Care to share?


Beanie Mouse said...

Never heard of this guy until reading this post. High art? Probably not. Entertaining, yes. Really worth all that money? Not mine, if I had that much I'd keep it. Does his work make me smile? Yes, it kinda does!!

Maureen said...

Four floors of Koons's work! I don't think I could take even one. I do have to hand it to him, though; as you say, the man is a star at getting publicity.

Jen Worden said...

so often I find that work that gets into big galleries is not stuff I'd want to own.

I don't know what this means.
It is what it is, I guess.

Karenliz Henderson said...

His art is out there. I always wondered what he was thinking when he was creating it. Some of it makes me laugh and I love to watch other people looking at it. I've never seen the ornate pieces thats interesting. His art isn't something I would want but I love to look at it.

Tina Clark said...

I'm not a big fan. Nothing of his sings to me. I did sort of like the sculpture with the gazing ball. Reminded me of Atlas. And I did learn one thing from your post. I used to do transfers with Silly Putty as a kid, but never knew you could do them with Play-Doh.

PocketSize said...

Wow! I think I've seen one of the balloon dogs before but I haven't been particularly familiar with Koons otherwise. For an artist, I pay surprisingly little attention to the fine arts world, especially modern art. Love those more baroque looking pieces, and I kind of want the statue with the gazing ball in my hypothetical garden on all the land I don't have! I do see what you mean about the selfies, though. How can you resist?

Jo Murray said...

I have to say that the scale of his larger works is awesome. Maybe OK for my garden...but I'd have to move out to put a piece in the house.

Unknown said...

I'm probably in the minority of the art world, but I detest Jeff Koons with a passion. I saw a segment about him on Art 21 a few years ago and all I could think about was that he didn't own an art studio, he owned a factory. His workers (I can't call them assistants though that was their title) had to use color charts to paint his 'art'. That's just paint by number work.
Sure he creates the work digitally but as he's gotten more and more famous, the less I think his work is art. At least Andy Warhol was honest - he called his studio "The Factory." Koons? Nah
When I think of all the truly great artists who never got recognition in their time or who are laboring in isolation with barely enough money to buy supplies, assembly line art like Koons really bothers me
(yeah, I know, tell us how you really feel)

layers said...

I have mixed feelings and thoughts about Jeff Koons... as my son Matt worked for him for several years as one of his many painters... and because Matt worked there I was allowed a visit... and it really is like a 'factory'... the large scale painting is generated from a computer and divided up into small index card segments.. paint mixers mix the paint and hand the paint to the 'painters' who copy exactly what they see on that small index card-- there are 3 young painters assigned to each painting and they all use very tiny brushes. Sometimes the painting can take up to a year to complete. I think that there are a lot of people who do not realize that Koons does not physically create any of his art... 2-D or 3-D... he hires others to create his 'ideas'... in my own limited art world this does not seem kosher... but in the bigger contemporary art world this is the norm.

Caterina Giglio said...

Not a fan.. Is the best thing I can think to say.. Donna and Lin said it all ..

Anonymous said...

Not really my thing, but Idid love your comment about image transfers with playdoh. It brought back memories. I think you can do it with silly putty too. Four floors f Frankenthaler and I would have raced to NY for that one. But he does have his own voice. xox

Jackie PN said...

Wow- guess, I'm on board with the others, Koons doesn't impress me-at all- smile? sorta-
I am surprised to learn that in lager Contemporary Art it is the norm to have others do your actual painting? seems very odd to me- I learned quiet a bit about Koons from this post-thank you Seth,Lin and Layers-

Brian Kasstle said...

I would have loved to see the exhibit. Thank you for sharing Seth!

mansuetude said...

Gazing ball and "selfies"
Your post helps extend a level of meaning.

Every bit of it, including the participants, Is a gazing ball held up to society. Reflections of cultural/social criticism...

In the right frame of mind, viewer could go to this exhibit and weep. "how we lay waste our powers..."

Thanks for bringing this. I too would have enjoyed to be part of this "happening"

Carol said...

Hmmm... Your post and the comments are very interesting. I've never been a big fan of Koons though I do like the reflective pieces and love your selfies. I don't think I really approve of the factory method of producing art but then I'm maybe just old fashioned. Not sure how anyone can take 20 years to produce the Play Doh work, especially as it was a commission. I think you need to see Koons with your sense of humour intact. Thanks for the chance to be there with you, Seth.

Bill said...

All I've got to say is it's amazing how quickly you gained and lost weight while taking the selfies.

Sue Marrazzo Fine Art said...

I find his work so Happy, Fun and VERY POP!

Darlene K Campbell said...

I think "the reactions of the crowd viewing his work" has more entertainment value and meaning than his actual work. I'd like to meet the person who paid $58 million for a sculpture and ask them WHY? How could this work maintain it's present value for years and years? I would not call him a master artist. I'm not into his work although I'd love to see a live exhibition just for the giggle factor!