At the end of November, Jeff Koons’s impressive Whitney Museum retrospective travelled to Paris’s Centre Pompidou, and the reviews are in! American reviewers were not across-the-board positive, for sure, but it seems the often-fussy French are put off by Koons’s market, uncomfortable with the idea that he does not make his own work, and disturbed by his comparisons between Duchamp and himself.
Let’s start with Slate.fr. (All translations basically courtesy Google Translate):
But what happened to Jeff Koons? Once the agent provocateur in the late 1980s, he became one of the safest icons and especially the most profitable of an artistic scene that comes too often with financial superlatives. The contemporary artist claims that his art should be “accessible to the greatest number,” but he has won several times the title of most expensive living artist…
Now on to The Huffington Post France, where writer Colin Lemoine decries the show in a review titled, “The Unbearable Lightness of Art”:
In a word, Jeff Koons seems foolish. Insane prices attained by flashy works…This senseless master assisted by hundreds in developing gleaming stainless steel parts, outputs of vulgar mill shapes, pristine scenery populated with computers, without soot or sweat, without dust, without odor. This foolish perversion of the work of art, reduced to a vacuum cleaner (1979), a colorful pile of dough (1994-2014) or a huge lobster acrobat (2003).
And even where Libération (the newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre) praises him, it makes him out to be sort of a monster:
What would we not do in the name of art? Jeff Koons: is he a bastard (to use Sartre’s term for one who renounces human freedom) or is he a saint, who donated his person to signify a life-size conceit of neoliberal ideology? Is he the designer of the arrogance of princes or the moralist that was expected?
Then there is the news site Atlantico, which takes a lighter touch, and even enjoys the gazing ball sculptures that weren’t terribly well received over here.
The exhibition ends with the “gazing ball” sculptures, plaster replicas of masterpieces of classical culture, grafted with a blown glass ball. This series opens up all sorts of questions: What is the relationship between the past and the present? What is the status of the copy facing the original? What is the role of contemporary art in the history of art? A good opportunity to remember that artists inexorably inspire each other.
This is just a handful of reviews, of course. Let us know if we missed any other good ones.