American Culture

ArtSunday: Neo-Poop for one and all

ArtSundayBy Ann Ivins

Ahhhh. An unseasonably balmy day here in the flyover zone. Upstairs, my riotous infant had subsided into what passes for a nap these hellish days. Downstairs, the dogs and I were cautiously relaxing into sunshine and silence. I snapped open a can of Diet Dr. Pepper, settled into the spot on the couch that fits my rear just right, and fired up the trusty laptop to while away a blessed hour with Google as my friendly guide… and saw this:


And said this: “Good God. Jeff Koons just crapped all over my Google.”

You know, I’m an ex-artsy type, dating from that long-ago era when Mr. Koons and Neo-Pop first oozed their way onto The Art Scene. I don’t argue with,“It’s art if I say it is”: not because I agree, but because years of painful experience have taught me that debating this point invariably results in an eye-twisting headache due to self-reproach and patchouli fumes. Dada? Yeah, yeah, I get it. Abstract Expressionism? Neither truly abstract nor effectively expressive, I mutter, but let it go. Meat sculpture and Modern Primitives? Whatever gets your angsty rocks off, and please don’t bleed in my direction.

Every now and then, however, I am forced to call “shenanigans,” and being visually assaulted without warning by Koons is one of those times. Rather than tax my own limited intellectual resources, let’s let the prophetic Michael Kimmelman explain, in a NYT review from 1991:

“Mr. Koons delivers an unabashedly cynical message. His works continue to celebrate the emptiness, meaninglessness and Disneylike unreality of contemporary life, now extended to the arena of love. But the hollowness the artist reveals seems fundamentally his own.

Mr. Koons’s boring, dully conceived images are closer in spirit to the dead academicism against which Manet reacted. The best comparison may be between Mr. Koons and Salvador Dali, increasingly an opportunistic publicity monger whose conflation of himself and his work precipitated the self-destruction that already seems Mr. Koons’s fate.”

Yup. Of course, the other part of Jeff Koons’ fate appears to be making bazillions of dollars pandering to precisely the kind of excess he was supposed to be commenting on, or not commenting on, or meta-commenting on, or something else with a dangling preposition and a huge profit margin. Okay, fine. But now he’s all up in my Google, and I’m thinking,“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe he’s evolved,” and just to make sure I check out his website and find that he has evolved – into an even greater and more successful talentless jackass than anyone could have predicted. Which reminds me of the other important lesson of my life so far: a significant portion of the human population, regardless of material success or personal fame, is dumber than a box of rocks.

Look, I’ll prove it. Want kitsch but short on cash? Never fear. For several million dollars (and that was just the cost to build it at the time), you could have this:


J. Koons, c. 1991. A forty-foot semi-dog-shaped topiary which would consume God knows how much water and Miracle-Gro every year, and where would you keep it anyway?

Or for $19.99 plus shipping, you could have this:


Chia Pet, c. 2008. A four-inch semi-dog-shaped topiary that costs almost nothing to maintain and provides roughage for the cat into the bargain.

For a paltry couple million, you could have this:

J. Koons, c. 1986. A two-foot-tall image of childhood innocence, rather clumsily sculpted and cast in stainless steel.


Or for $395.00, you could have this:


HomeClick, c. 2005. A two-foot-tall image of childhood innocence, rather clumsily sculpted and cast in bronze, that actually spurts water from its tiny metal urethra.

And finally, for the GNP of an average-sized former Soviet state and your first-born child, you could have this:


J. Koons, c. 1994. Shiny, pretty, the size of a small car, impossible to hide in, say, a bedside table or under the mattress.

Or for $1500.00, you could have this:


Good Vibes, c. 2008. Shiny, pretty, portable, discreet – and batteries are included.

See? Neo-Pop for every price point. People are really, really dumb. Jeff Koons has made a fortune proving it.

12 replies »

  1. I don’t know what’s the big deal — just because Koons’s “Hanging Heart” sold at Sotheby’s last November for $23 million. Or, as a New York magazine article reports, “An oversize sculpture of costume jewelry by [Koons] was valued higher than a Tintoretto, an El Greco, or a clutch of Courbets.”

  2. Great post.

    I saw that google art thingy, checked it out, and took a pass. I guess if I can’t afford it, I won’t look at it unless it’s in a museum. Koons doesn’t impress me that much, but I understand why some might like his work. That being said, I’m leaving tomorrow for a week in New York to hit the impressionist auction at Sotheby’s, and generally have some R&R.

    I’m bidding on something from this auction, and hope to come back with a bauble or two:


  3. Checked out that catalog, Jeff. Guess I’m naive but I had no idea work by all those great artists was all sold at one time in this day and age. Staggering to contemplate.

    Good luck.

  4. Russ,

    That’s only the day auction….you ought to see the evening auction. The mid-range impressionist art, what I collect, has really experienced a softening in prices. I’m bidding on two pieces, and hope that someone doesn’t want them more than I do:) What the hell, you only go around once in life.


  5. Funny, funny post. I never even heard of this guy, which tells you a lot about my expertise in the graphic arts (is that the right term?).

    Glad to know where the google art came from, though. I saw the flowers and panicked. I though I’d missed Mother’s Day.

  6. Technically, it would be “fine art.” In reality, it’s substandard plagiarized graphic/industrial design.

    Sez me.

  7. Agreed. As much as I like some of the abstract stuff, there’s a lot of it that either a) I don’t get, b) there isn’t anything TO get, or c) can only be “appreciated” by so-called art aficionados (ie people pretending to ply truly pretentious paintings, potentially).

  8. I am disheartened to see that someone who is so obviously witty and brilliant would take the time to even comment about such a hack artist.

    Is there not other much more pressing issues out there to attend to? For us to meet head on as writers?

    Please, PLEASE, people…..get your priorities straight!

  9. Oh, Nellie. Thank you for the praise. But how on earth could I pass up the chance to post a picture of a $1500 vibrator on S&R? I’m afraid my priorities are as straight as they’ll ever be.