Revenge, many things are said about. For one it’s
… a dish best served cold.”
Artist Jeff Koons‘ appeared last week on 60 Minutes, three decades after an an infamous segment on the art of the day. At the center of the original 1985 story was Koons’ sculpture of three basketballs floating in an aquarium that had just sold at Sotheby’s for $150,000.
The segment’s host, the late curmudgeonly (even cold?) correspondent Morley Safer, was NOT impressed. Art like this stuff made by Koons, Safer said,
may make you believe… that there’s a sucker born every minute.”
Fast forward to 2016, Koons’ Total Equilibrium tank sells at Christie’s for 100 times that original (laughable) amount! (Safer died the same year at 84.)
We might pause right here for a sec to contemplate in retrospect the importance of Koons’ Equilibrium tank series in the history of contemporary art, if you think it’s goofy and so easily dismissed.
For one, Koons was serious from the get-go. He enlisted the guidance of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman, to attain the state of equilibrium, although the ‘permanent equilibrium’ he was aiming for remained beyond reach.
Like Duchamp’s Fountain before it, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is now seen to have epitomized a new direction in art that still continues while commenting on 80s, capitalist consumer culture as well as aspiration.
Koons was once again the subject of a 60 Minutes segment, but the profile, reported by Anderson Cooper, has little in common with the hatchet-job from three decades ago.
Whereas Safer eye-rolls Koons’ work over the commerciality of his practice (and persona) the Cooper segment glorifies the artist’s reputation.
Cooper, who’s a Koons’s collector, gives us a tour of the remarkable studio set-up, says,
Maybe you’re thinking Jeff Koons sounds like a phony self-help prophet. Plenty of critics do.
But he does see art as something that can help people have a personal transformation.”
We also visit Koons’ 800-acre farm in southern Pennsylvania, where he talks of tending to cows and horses on his days away from the studio.
It’s taking an object which the New York elites might look at think,
‘That’s tacky, that’s trashy, that’s something you buy in a gift show,’
and it’s blowing it up and making it perfect and saying,
‘This has value’?
For perspective, Cooper brings in critic and curator Robert Storr who course-corrects by saying,
It has meaning, not necessarily value.
The message is that it is there to be embraced, that it is not to be mocked. One should not be smugly sure of one’s own taste to the point of denying the possibility of other tastes.”
Koons’s Moon Phases project, where he plans to send 125 small, stainless-steel sculptures to the moon later this year is a fitting end.
He won’t say how much [these pieces] will cost you, but with Jeff Koons, it’s a safe bet the price tag will be out of this world.”
You know the other thing “they” always say is,
Living well is the best revenge.”
Forget the art and what you might think of it (Koons would NEVER dream of using the word “revenge”) but with a net worth of over $400 million, as far as living well goes, as an artist it’s hard to do much better.
(Photos, YouTube; via Artnet News)