Play D’oh! A Jeff Koons Pile of “Art”
“It’s a commercial world, and morality is based generally around economics, and that’s taking place in the art gallery.”
Part of what I want this blog to do is expose certain notorious figures of the commercialized contemporary art world to a new audience.
I’d like to help educate all you good people who, up until now, have been uninterested, alienated, or even hostile to the efforts of today’s networked creative classes, and their deep-pocketed supporters.
From what I see, the potential audience of the disengaged is practically everyone in entire world.
Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. Practically no one is paying attention to contemporary art other than a small bubble of artists, academics, institution apparatchiks, trophy-hunting high rollers, and those who wish to vicariously participate in their presumed sophistication.
Since most people have tuned out the shenanigans of this arrogant, decadent band of charlatans, you might be unaware of what the art world racket has been producing. You haven’t been missing much.
In this example, we have a major perpetrator of the corrupt art world status quo: Jeff Koons.
What’s up Doc? A Long Eared Galoot, and one of his Sculptures
Throughout his career, Jeff Koons has racked up approximately $765 million dollars in sales. He does not make the pieces sold under his brand name. The actual work is done by anonymous skilled craftsmen. Koons contributes “concepts” that others execute.
And what kind of ideas has this mogul graced us with that have generated such windfalls? Treasures such as these:
Jeff Koons, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”
Jeff Koons, Poseur
Koons may be best known for a series of giant stainless steel replicas of balloon animals. An orange version of one sold for over $58 million.
Over inflated: Wiener Dog Art
Then there was the era in the 1990s when Koons married Cicciolina, an Italian XXX film performer. Koons commissioned a whole series of artworks featuring the couple engaging in hardcore sexytime action (Warning: link is definitely NSFW). They were divorced in 1998; I can’t imagine why.
A PG-13 Version of Koons and His Porn Star Wife
Not everything is coming up inflatable tulips for the crafty con artist, however. Koons graciously offered to donate a monument to France for the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack: a 35 foot tall hand holding balloon flowers. He graciously expected them to install it next to the Eiffel Tower. The French not so graciously rejected this blatant attempt at product placement. Negotiations are ongoing.
An Indecent Proposal
One of the top selling artists of this era of art specializes in obscenely expensive replicas of cheap toys, gimmicks, and smut. So what is the significance of this?
To understand, you need to look at one of the foundational conceits of art world elitism: the Marxist tinged struggle between the avant-gard and kitsch.
These terms rose to prominence in a 1939 essay by art critic Clement Greenberg. A devotee of the leftist Frankfurt School, Greenberg propounded his contempt for popular American culture. In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I explain Greenberg’s assertions:
“…he claimed the cultural world could be divided in two. The avant-garde (a military term referring to strike force troops, who go ahead of the main army) were forward-thinking sophisticates, whose radical creations were driven by a contempt for the tacky tastes of the general public.
“To Greenberg, the common people were too ignorant to appreciate the rarefied efforts of the avant-garde; these backwards types could only appreciate kitsch (a German word used for low quality art), a phony vision of art which tugged at middle class sensations like beauty, patriotism, and sentimental feelings. A Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of a popular magazine was the kind of thing that could make an intellectual like Greenberg retch.
“Greenberg declared, ‘…part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: avant-garde culture. A superior consciousness of history—more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism—made this possible.’ The consciousness Greenberg refers to as ‘superior’ just happens to be his own, as he proceeded over the next few decades presumptively acting as the ultimate authority on art.”
So how did the art world move from rejecting the tawdry stylings of disposable popular culture to glorifying them?
The secret is the art world cosmopolitans are still dripping with contempt towards most of humanity. What has been added is the soul sucking Postmodern gambit of irony. By celebrating the tacky, elitists are actually mocking their straw man version of what “ordinary” people are capable of. Our New Aristocracy of the Well Connected disrespect the intelligence and capacities of all those whose lives don’t revolve around relentless elitist status signalling contests.
They assume that all we can appreciate is tawdry junk, and so they are having a patronizing laugh at us by spending millions on art that carefully reproduces…tawdry junk. Now it’s avant garde to clone kitsch, which makes it totally different because of reasons. Isn’t it ironic?
If you think that sounds dumb, you would be right. Welcome to the inverse values of the nasty Postmodern world, where our betters try to force us to accept that bad is good and stupid is clever.
This isn’t about the money. The finances are just a side show for most art world participants. Big league art deals are exercises in money laundering, tax evasion, and insider trading, but not that many get into that high roller category. What is most concerning is what it says about those controlling our cultural expressions.
The real perk for most establishment art types is a sense of superiority. Supporting a hoax substitute for art gets converted into the gold of social prestige through the alchemy of Postmodern dogma. It’s yet another proof that our current crop of cultural elitists are really not advanced at all.
Elitists hype outsourced and infantile art because of their own limitations. They lack depth and real achievement themselves, so they can’t tell the difference. They embrace this failure of character as a badge of honor, and mandatory for admission to their tribe.
What Postmodern charlatans have been pushing for decades isn’t even art at all. It’s artifice, an empty mimicry of the outer appearances and gestures of art, without partaking of any of its true substance and significance.
The good news is Postmodernism is dead. It no longer captures the new dynamic spirit of the age. As I state in the upcoming Remodern America Manifesto:
“Postmodernism shows the folly which erupts when the spiritual center of life is denied. Shifting focus away from the soul gave rise to an art world floundering in obscurity, destruction, pornography, propaganda, excrement and carrion. Contemporary establishment art is treated as a wedge, a social signifier of elitist attitudes, and a decadent toy for the wealthy.”
The art done in the name of Jeff Koons typifies this hostile positioning. Its cuteness is a sneer at what suckers we are. The species of cultural rot inspired by Marcel Duchamp has become such a tired trope.
Remodern art restores respect for the general audience, and their abilities to have profound experiences. Remodernists understand art is for everyone. We can all be stirred by beauty, moved by emotional expressions, and gratified by the experience of truth. Western civilization used to understand how art provided those uplifting states. Our current cultural institutions largely fail to produce these positive outcomes; instead they want to pretend a multi-million dollar imitation of a party trick is good enough for us dolts. They are wrong.
The Remodern age will be the story of the dismantling of centralized power. An arts establishment which claims a sarcastic marketing scheme is a major artistic achievement is a juicy target for serious reforms.
Jeff Koons: Having a Ball
Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit others posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.