Monday, March 31, 2008

On Jeff Koons

Wikipedia on Jeff Koons:

Jeff Koons has received extreme reactions to his work. Supporters claim (for Balloon Dog) "an awesome presence... a massive durable monument" (Amy Dempsey, ed. Styles, Schools and Movements, 2002, Thames & Hudson), and for other work that it is possible to be "wowed by the technical virtuosity and eye-popping visual blast" (Jerry Saltz, art critic)

However, Mark Stevens of The New Republic dismissed him as a "decadent artist [who] lacks the imaginative will to do more than trivialize and italicise his themes and the tradition in which he works... He is another of those who serve the tacky rich." Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times saw "one last, pathetic gasp of the sort of self-promoting hype and sensationalism that characterized the worst of the 1980s" and threw in for good measure "artificial," "cheap" and "unabashedly cynical."

Whether Koons will be seen in time as a critical commentator in the tradition of the Dadaists and a genuine leader in the controversial tradition of the avant-garde, or merely as a fashionable purveyor of meaninglessness and banality, remains to be seen. However, this judgement cannot be made in isolation from the evaluation of the wider contemporary art scene. He has had an undoubted influence on noted younger artists: his extreme enlargement of mundane objects has been first shown by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and much later by Damien Hirst, one of Koons' later influences (e.g. in Hirst's Hymn, an eighteen-foot version of a fourteen-inch anatomical toy) and Mona Hatoum amongst others.

Even a cursory study of history shows that contemporary institutional acceptance (his work has been exhibited in London's Royal Academy) is no reliable guide to the judgment of posterity. What can be said is that at the moment Koons attracts extremes of enthusiasm and vitriol, and that his work is amongst the most expensive in the world.

Koons has received recognition by his peers. In 2005 he was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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