Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pissin' with the Koons

"Balloon Dog," chromium stainless-steel sculpture, Jeff Koons

Before he was a world-famous, fabulously wealthy artist, Jeff Koons was a stock salesman on Wall Street. This may or may not say something important about the international art market, but I think it's worth relating. As an artist, Koons doesn't make things himself; he has ideas. His ideas are produced by (outsourced to) experts in various crafts & industrial processes under Koon's close supervision (management). The "Balloon Dog" replica (above) of a kid's twist-up party toy, for example, is 10 feet tall & made of chromium stainless steel with an exquisitely smooth burnt-red finish.

"Rabbit 2," stainless steel sculpture, Jeff Koons

Full disclosure: I have only seen one object that I know of by Jeff Koons. It was a metal bunny (above). As I recall, it was modestly sized, perched on a pedestal in one of the museums. It left me flat, but I didn't dislike it. I reacted the way one does to a shiny table ornament.

I confess some of Koon's more grandiose projects do have a wacky charm though, at least in the telling. I would, for instance, love to see his Puppy, described by Wikipedia as "... a forty-three foot (12.4 m) tall topiary sculpture of a West Highland White Terrier puppy executed in a variety of flowers on a steel substructure with an internal irrigation system." Or someday perhaps goggle at his Train, touted as "the most expensive artwork ever commissioned by a museum" (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Slated for the museum's entry plaza, directly above museumgoers, it is described as "... a 70-foot replica of a 1943 Baldwin 2900-series steam locomotive... suspend[ed] vertically from a 161-foot-tall construction crane. The wheels will rotate, smoke will puff from the smokestack and the whistle will blow, all at as-yet-unspecified intervals."


Here's Koons speaking to The New Yorker about a version of the Balloon Dog (see above). " 'It's about inhaling,' Koons said, walking around the dog, 'and inflating when you inhale. It's about life.' He expanded his chest and beamed again."

Anybody want to buy a risk-free mortgage-backed security?

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