At $5.6m (£3.8m) for the original,
May 16, 2001 7:26 AM   Subscribe

At $5.6m (£3.8m) for the original, I think I'll wait until the knock offs are in walmart.

This must have been an interesting auction.
posted by the_ill_gino (29 comments total)
The guy who bought it will probably put it next to his porcelain clown collection. Or maybe in the room with the black velvet paintings of dogs playing poker.
posted by CRS at 7:46 AM on May 16, 2001

That porcelain clown collection scares me. I don't know if the lighting of the picture has anything to do with it but it's damn creepy.
posted by the_ill_gino at 7:55 AM on May 16, 2001

At least porcelain is the right colour for MJ's skin tone these days.
posted by Markb at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2001

This really does look like something you'd find in WalMart.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2001

That looks like the sort of thing that your great Aunt Melba gives you for Christmas because she's tired of it gathering dust in her guest room. You know, the embarrassing piece of rubbish that you stuff in a drawer the moment she's gone, then hurriedly plunk on the mantel just before she arrives for next year's festivities.

posted by NsJen at 8:26 AM on May 16, 2001

I think even Wal-mart might give that one a miss. 99¢ Only would stock it, though.
posted by RylandDotNet at 8:33 AM on May 16, 2001

Man, somebody had a lot more money than sense....
posted by darren at 8:33 AM on May 16, 2001

Here's what really gets me about this: that piece of crap sells for millions, while "Three sculptures by Alexander Calder remained unsold."

Calder was brilliant - one of the best 20th century artists. He will be remembered long after Koons and his ilk have been forgotten.
posted by dnash at 8:35 AM on May 16, 2001

i kept looking around on that page to find some clue that it was a joke. oh man. what a world.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2001

>I think even Wal-mart might give that one a miss. 99¢ >Only would stock it, though

Hey! Don't insult the 99 cents store man! It's the only place I can find Martha White cornbread mix in my state!
posted by summer1971 at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2001

I'm curious: did he need Michael Jackson's consent to sell this thing? It doesn't mention in the article whether it's authorized or not. And if it's not, I've got some serious gaudy-ass sculpting to do.
posted by frenetic at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2001

Jeff Koons: Getting It

Well since it is part of the banality series, I looked around and found this article by the author of GenerationX. While I am not sure what it means, I think his work might offer a good example of how much of a sucker the mass consumer can be. But there's always the possibility that the type of stuff he mimics really conveys something meaningful to us. Or is there? I'm doubting it with my fingers crossed.
posted by mblandi at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2001

By the way Dnash, I'd take Calder any day over this pedestrian social commentary. Those mobiles summon sheer wonder.
posted by mblandi at 9:51 AM on May 16, 2001

Jeff Koons' infamous Ushering into Banality was sold to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam for a ridiculous price in 89. It got a lot of press at the time, a lot of attention and what's art if it doesn't create a hullabulloo. I've seen 'Ushering' (it's big) and I think it's hilarious. There's all kinds of things you could say in support of Koons' style - which I'm not going to do cause I'm not an art buff. But I like 'camp' a lot) and this certainly is camp. (Pigs are great, aren't they?)

Koons married Italian porn star Cicciolina in 1991 and the pair then had themselves immortalised in all kinds of interesting positions.
posted by prolific at 9:53 AM on May 16, 2001

From the man himself: "You know, for people that are a little new to art, or think about art on the surface, they can look at an artist's work and they can say, You know, that's really not that different from what I see in the grocery store or what I see in the toy store; and they're absolutely right. The only difference is that the art is being seen within a type of contextualization, of its relation to other things..." That and $5.6M...
posted by gwint at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2001

There's a version of the Michael Jackson sculpture at the Museum of Contempoary Art here in Chicago.

It's not the sort of thing you can just pick up and stick in a drawer. Michael and Bubbles are rendered life size - in porcelain. The thing is huge, easily the largest porcelian sculpture I've ever seen.

Which of course, is the whole point - it's a critique of popular culture; from overpriced porcelain trinkets to the King of Pop himself.

That said, I rather agree with dnash. I find Calder to be a far more important figure, and would love to have a work of his as my own. (Something that will never happen, by the way). Sad that his work was unsold.
posted by aladfar at 10:00 AM on May 16, 2001

Mblandi, thanks for the link to the Coupland article. I really love Coupland's writing, and I suppose he does put Koons in some sort of context. But my problem remains, in that the art itself is crap without all that PoMo/Ironic context.

If I could go back in time, I sometimes think I'd like to kill Marcel Duchamp - at least before he could do this. (I especially love this bit in the commentary there: "The highly esteemed Arturo Schwarz edition of Fountain is the fourth full-scale version of the piece and the one that most closely approximates the lost original." - It's just a urinal, folks.)

I suppose Duchamp and Warhol, with their "ready-mades" and recycled pop culture (although I'll take a Warhol painting over anyone's "ready-made" any day!) were ends that art had to get to at some point or other. The problem is people like Koons are still there.

Give me Brancusi, Noguchi, or Henry Moore.
posted by dnash at 10:24 AM on May 16, 2001

I saw (a copy of?) the MJ/Bubbles sculpture @ the SFMOMA a few months back. I don't necessarily find it meaningful in any way beyond the mass media/culture critique it (and virtually every contemporary magazine, TV show, movie, etc.) offers, but I definitely looked at it for more than just a few moments and thought about what it did to me. I guess you can't ask for much more than that from a piece of art.
posted by jkottke at 10:56 AM on May 16, 2001

In a century's time, will people know that Koons is "ironic kitsch", rather than plain ol' kitsch? Or rather, will people care? It belongs to the history of criticism, not art. But it does its purpose.
posted by holgate at 11:01 AM on May 16, 2001

I find myself more enraged by this than anything I've seen on MeFi in a long time.
posted by norm at 11:40 AM on May 16, 2001

jkottke: I'm not sure if your last sentence was ironic. I think that some art (a small minority of what's created, granted) can do more than make me think about what it did to me. It can make me experience the world in a different way - refocus my perceptions, I mean, not just my thoughts; encourage me to daydream differently. I've nothing against cultural-criticism artworks, and I'm in full agreement with you and Holgate on Koons, but sometimes I can walk away from a work (Joseph Cornell's boxes, for example, or Vermeer or Rauschenberg), without analysing my reaction and with just a simple sense of wonder at the world around me, and I find it a longer-lasting and more nutritious experience.

And now back to the thread at hand...
posted by liam at 12:19 PM on May 16, 2001

In a century's time, will people know that Koons is "ironic kitsch", rather than plain ol' kitsch? Or rather, will people care?

20th century art is all social commentary. pop art, abstract expressionism, expressionism, even impressionism are. to name a few general movements. i suppose they's not memorable either, because they're not timeless. i don't mean this sarcastically. they're not bad because they're not timeless either; in a century's time, who's going to remember us? whether that's good or bad is up to the viewer. 20th century art is about timeliness, not timelessness.
posted by elle at 12:38 PM on May 16, 2001

Liam, you're right. That last sentence was phrased poorly; it implies that all art needs to do is stop and make one think about something. What I was trying to say is that Koons' piece, at some level, "does its job" as art.
posted by jkottke at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2001

I think it's telling that those in this thread (like me) who have seen the actual work were impressed by it. To criticize the work based on a small picture of it is absurd. Michelangelo's David doesn't look like much in a picture either, but go see it in real life and tell me you aren't moved.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:58 PM on May 16, 2001

jeff koons is to be commended for making art that shocks, and enrages people. this is one purpose of art. calder's mobiles mystefied people and critics in his heyday, likewise brancusi, etc., etc. superstardom and all it entails is surely one of the more banal "worlds" in this early 21st century. jeff koons is showing us just how banal. he would be delighted to hear the comments of the average reader of this site...especially the ones about belonging in a 99 cent store....exactly!
posted by billybob at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2001

It's not just that the picture is tiny, it makes the piece appear tiny itself. It looks to me like it's sitting on a table, based on one shadowy line in the background.

So I haven't seen it. Given someone's description of it as "huge" - I could grudgingly admit it might then be more interesting in person. Nevertheless, there is such a vast difference between it and Michelangelo's "David" that I find your comparison absurd. And I think the "David" does look like something, even in a small picture.
posted by dnash at 2:46 PM on May 16, 2001

Yeah, sorry. I called it pedestrian as a joke with myself because someone once told me to do that at cocktail parties to politely dismiss works of art. Anyway, Koons is sharp because I think I get exactly the feelings he wants me too when I look at these hellish puppies. That big cute beast would make me consider moving from any town. That picture of him with the little one has me thrashing with revulsion and cuteness going all mad inside me.

"I hope Puppy communicates love, warmth, and happiness to everyone."- Jeff Koons

Where does this criticism bring us though? It does tickle me a little. Imagine driving down your thoroughfare and seeing that hulking puppy. Ha!
posted by mblandi at 3:04 PM on May 16, 2001

jeff koons is to be commended for making art that shocks, and enrages people. this is one purpose of art. calder's mobiles mystefied people and critics in his heyday

Whatever. If I had to see a giant statue of Michael Jackson (and his monkey) as much as Grand Rapids residents have seen La Grande Vitesse (or whatever - generally called "the Calder"), I think I'd move.

But anyway. I don't think anyone's shocked or outraged by this. It's more sort of an "oh no, some more stupid crap someone paid a lot of money for" which serves no purpose except to further alienate people from art. We're laughing at it, and that's what the populace would do, and say "that silly modern art."

If you're going to shock people, shock people. Make art glorifying the KKK or Hitler or one of the few people who can still make people outraged, not someone's who's long been a joke on Saturday Night Live... though it still raises the question of "why?" because just making people hate you doesn't take an artist, or we'd be giving grants to every troll who ever populated usenet.
posted by dagnyscott at 4:01 PM on May 16, 2001

re: michaelangelo, calder vs. koons. consider you had never heard of or seen pictures of either david or michael and bubbles or any mobile. you come home one day and your significant other has just purchased, to put in the backyard, because s/he thinks it's clever, michael and bubbles. you see it for the first time. it's bizarre. it's disconcerting and almost beautiful... well it's certainly pretty... and perhaps sick as well.

ok, let's say you came home and s/he purchased david (no mention of price. let's say she paid $1000 cash to a thief). what do you think of it? oh wow, some old statue. interesting. definitely beautiful. the more you look at it, the more you realize it's quite well done.

and the calder? (i have no idea; i'm not at all a fan, someone else do this part).

the first point is: people are conflating two rather simplistic arguments, that it sucks that koons' work is adjudged millions, and that koons' work is art at all. if you clear your mind of the anger about the pricetag, i think you will see it is art.

we aren't taught from a very young age about duchamp's readymades - we have grown up in a world changed by his theatre of the absurd brought to life, it's probably one of the most powerful memes of the last century; we can't imagine a world without duchamp, where you came home and s/he had purchased a urinal from a thief and set it up in the backyard, and you could imagine it for what it is, just a urinal. when people say, red in the face, "it's just a urinal, people!!!" they are being disingenuous. they aren't trying to convince others what they already know - that it isn't art - they're trying to reclaim it, to unmake it, to reverse duchamp's act, which is impossible at least for a long time, possibly forever. because it is art.

i'd like to know why people who fume about the high price koons and duchamp and warhol fetch don't get angry about people who pay high prices for other collector's objects, such as stamps, memoribilia, designer clothes, etc. is it because they think people talk about art as if it was the deepest thing on the planet? it can't be, because few bother to talk of it that way. why do talentless actors get huge salaries? because some people like them, i guess; why do people like them? dunno, because they're pretty in a unique way or one can see oneself in them? or could it be that the millions that brendan fraser gets is not because vox populi has made itself heard, but because of quirks of the market, quirks of the media and its buzz feedback loops, because of the whims of executives who make films and run the media... exact same deal in the art world...

so say if you want, that koons is brendan fraser of the art world and calder is like cary grant or something. then douglas coupland will wink and say, but i love brendan fraser, because he's so talentless, but in a good way, unlike say, pauly shore, and you just don't get it.

question: what's the equivalent in the music world to koons?
posted by mitchel at 1:00 AM on May 17, 2001

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