The biggest show of the year in New York (and maybe America, or the world) closed this weekend: the retrospective of Jeff Koons at the Whitney Museum of American Art. While Koons is a controversial figure who has achieved more commercial than critical success, the consensus about this show seems to be that the works, in the end, are indeed masterpieces. In this episode, we put aside the hype and look very closely at three sculptures spanning the artist's career, in order to see if there is more than meets the eye.
Tina: Aside from Jeff Koons being such a famous and record-breakingly expensive artist, there are a few reasons why the Whitney Museum retrospective of his work is a big deal.
Firstly, this is the final show that the Whitney will ever have in its iconic, beloved Breuer building; after it closes, they're packing up and moving into their newly-built space in NYC's downtown Meatpacking District. (The Met Museum will take over the space on a long-term lease.) Obviously, choosing Jeff Koons to be their farewell show--and devoting its space almost entirely to one artist's work, which they don't normally do--makes a statement about how important they think he is.
More broadly, this is the first retrospective Koons has ever had in New York City, which is still the center of the American art world. While all major retrospectives are like coronations, the fact that this retrospective happened in New York suggests that the corners of the New York (and hence, American) art world that have criticized and resisted his work for decades are finally waving the white flag, welcoming the prodigal son home and offering to accept him, on his terms. The show will travel from New York to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and then to the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, like a victory lap around the Old World, after conquering the New.
Roberta Smith, "Shapes of an Extroverted Life," NY Times
Peter Schjeldahl, "Selling Points," The New Yorker
Travis Diehl, "After Jeff Koons: A Retrospective," LA Review of Books
Jed Perl, "The Cult of Jeff Koons," The New York Review of Books
August 20: Man Vandalizes Jeff Koons Retrospective
Whitney to stay open for 36 hour Jeff Koons Marathon starting Oct. 18
October 19: Whitney wall tagged in late-night graffiti strike