Jeff Koons, Buster Keaton (1988), polychromed wood, 65-3/4″ x 50″ x 26-1/2″
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A colleague recently chided me for shirking my responsibilities as a critic because I hadn’t made a peep about Jeff Koons and the 25-year overview of his art at C & M Arts. The remark suggests that Mr. Koons has something to tell us about art. He doesn’t, of course. An unctuous amalgam of Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol, Mr. Koons has based an entire career on demonstrating that high culture is a sham–hence the oversized, kitschy odes to Spalding basketballs, inflatable balloon dogs, Michael Jackson and (in a particularly unforgivable stroke) Buster Keaton.
Mr. Koons isn’t so principled in his anti-art ways that he declines the prestige accorded a Major Artist–you just know he wears that shit-eating grin all the way to the bank. I’m more curious about the rich folks who buy his stuff. Is it really that exciting to participate in one’s own swindling and debasement? Mr. Koons is a bona fide cultural phenomenon-the most egregious symptom of a scene so obsessed with the sensational that it doesn’t realize when it’s being suckered.
© 2004 Mario Naves
Originally published in the June 7, 2004 edition of The New York Observer.