The “Koons” Aesthetic

My good friend (and awesome painter), Jen Casselberry, linked this piece of criticism to an art circle that I participate in –

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I find this criticism to be powerful and important. This, in particular, was brilliant-

“For the 1% of the super-rich who support Koons’s work, it is not about art, but about achieving the rank of tastemaker. One reason they love Koons is because he spends huge amounts of money on something they are buying for an even larger sum — money chasing money. . . It is certainly hyperbolic to refer to Koons as some kind of creative genius, but he does share the genius of corporate marketers, who are able to convince consumers that the product they are selling is absolutely essential to their lives”.

This exquisitely captures what I find so horrifying about Koons and his spiritual brethren – they are not commenting on popular culture, they aren’t even embracing it – they are presenting “fame for the sake of fame” as the logical next step in our evolution as creatives. If we are to be considered “current”, then we have to accept this as the correct expression of the artistic instinct. We aren’t here to think, explore or create; we’re here to be famous. Period.

Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Patti Smith? Screw them, too hard to understand, oblique, all outsiders, no one likes difficult art. Better to have our music served up to us on American Idol. No need for discernment – let Steven Tyler and Gloria Estefan tell you what you should like. Dance? No Nijinsky or Martha Graham in Jeff’s world. We should venerate Sarah Palin’s kid on Dancing with the Stars – so brave to walk out on that TV set!

The ubiquity of fame is the standard of legitimacy in this world view and the lengths to which one sells their soul for that fame is the measure of the artist. Ultimately Koons and his ilk enjoy the same brand of approval that Thomas Kinkaid laid claim to – I am valid because large amounts of money are spent on my art. Nothing more.

We live in a dying nation and a dying culture and, as much as I might feel I should hate this crap, I can’t, as it is only a reflection of America’s soul sickness. At the same time, I cannot give the Jeff Koons’ of the world the validity of presenting a knowing criticism of our culture (as opposed to the incredibly sly and well presented work of the Pop artists of the 50s and 60s). The Koons aesthetic is nothing more than a flag of surrender that ultimately says “Look, you pointy headed, “smart” folk out there – you lost. Banality wins. We’re here for the end of all that was once admirable in the creative life and we don’t want to be burdened with your angst about it. We just want to have a good time on the way down”.

Yecch. I’m going to go paint for a while this afternoon and see if I can’t get the bad taste out of my mouth.

Categories: Art

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