Lobster – Collection-Michael and BZ-Schwartz (Studio Jeff-Koons)
ersailles gave us diamonds, and diamonds are forever. Versailles gave us fashion, and hemlines have never been the same. And today the most touristed site in the world (5.5 million visitors/year!) gives us Jeff Koons. He never looked so good, and probably never will again. He looks even better than Cicciolina flashing her pussy getting out of a limo: vulgar, beautiful, exciting, bright, irresistible as catnip is to cats.Afterart News went en masse, flashing our press cards and finessing the endless lines to get in. It starts in the exterior courtyard, before you find yourself immersed in the odorous river of humanity (overheard: “It’s that New York subway smell!”) that courses through Versailles all day every day: BALLOON FLOWER (green). Standing on a misconceived platform, BALLOON FLOWER (green) is royal eye candy in polished stainless steel, a gem set in the kingdom of kitsch. All dismissive Koons criticism (“What’s he done that Claus Oldenberg didn’t do?”) evaporates from right minds on a glorious fall day in Versailles like dew from the long lawns. Then you really start looking at it. Classical sculptural elements like surface and depth have been pushed to marvelous levels: the “highly sanded” surface both absorbs and reflects the world in its seductive curves. There’s no way into it, there’s no way around it, and there’s no way out. It’s immaculately manufactured, of course. Conceptually BALLOON FLOWER (green) plays a high/low kitsch/classical mind game in perfect pitch. It’s hilarious and majestic. It’s the apotheosis of the banal. And you haven’t even entered the chateau yet.So go, you’ll love it. The only thing missing is Cicciolina in Louis XIV’s bed. But that’s not hard to imagine.As everyone knows, two polemical arguments surround this marriage of ageless in-your-face French pomposity and American kitsch on steroids. The first is best expressed by the grumbling tourists who paid good money to get in and don’t like these pimples of contemporary art on the face and backside of their blue-blooded fantasies. This matter of taste actually works for Koons in a way 10 million tourists would never imagine: it gives the exhibition the de rigeur subversive element it totally lacks and yet needs to succeed. In fact, there is absolutely nothing even mildly subversive here. And yet where would good contemporary art be without a dash of the indecent?The second so-called polemic involves the supposedly troubling conflict of interests. The tourists don’t care about this, but a chattering art class of culture vultures and bitter woodchucks does (kind of). For anyone who doesn’t already know, the former French Minister of Culture, M. Aillagon, used to work for François Pinault, the French billionaire who owns six of the Koon’s pieces in this exhibition. To quote Louis, the French Gendarme in the film Casa Blanca: “I’m shocked, Rick, shocked to see that there is gambling going on here!” That may not be exact, but who, ladies and gentlemen, in the art market today does not do his or her absolute best to financially valorize his or her investments? Aillagon and Pinault and Larry Gagosian just do it better, that’s all. I can think of a lot of artists who, after visiting this exhibition, might go home, take a handful of valium and hide in the back of their closets for a couple of months. Dealers likewise. Because they are playing the same game, and they will never, ever play in this sandbox. So let’s not hear the pot call the kettle black.Plus ça change…If you want to get upset about this exhibition, try this: Koons could only sigh “Profound” when asked what he thought about it all. Profound isn’t much to go on, but he’s right if by it he means that the sublime and the ridiculous co-exist here in king-sized harmony. If the French King hadn’t had his head removed by M. Guillotine’s invention, he’d have his arm around our artist instead of Larry G. Afterart News attended Larry’s dinner for a couple of hundred of his collectors in a restaurant near the Champs Elysees. Here was the contemporary equivalent of the Sun King’s court, here were frivolities worthy of Marie Antoinette. Rock stars burning flatbeds of hundred-dollar bills have nothing on the discreet charm of this utter waste.
The best we mere mortals can hope for is that Larry, François Pinault, Eli Broad, Dakis Joannou, Edgar de Picciotto, and the rest of them have left enough crumbs behind so that we won’t starve to death here on the street, or where art is still being made in the garrets, garages and cellars of Paris. Meantime we wish them all the best in Moscow, where Larry is opening his brand new gallery. Maybe Damien Hirst will come back into the fold if Larry gets him a show in the Kremlin.Richard Dailey
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