Am I crazy or just out of touch?
Copyright Vladimir Kagan May 17, 2012
I had recently been invited to the opening of the Jeff Koons’ exhibit at the venerable Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. The Beyeler is one of the mainstays of the Avant-Garde Art movement in Basel: Art Basel is its by-product and Art-Basel Miami its younger sibling.
I have not followed the “Hip – Pop-Art - Avant-Garde” movements in art and am therefore a neophyte in this gendre. My closet encounter was through a client who collects and boasts friendship with Damien Hirst, whose art consists of dissected animals and humans preserved in formaldehyde… Enough to turn your stomach, unless you are a student of anatomy. (I also have a surprising number of friends who consider Hirst’s work to be a message in art…. I have tried, but failed to see it).
Jeff Koons is another “anatomist”, but not the pickled sort. He is prolific beyond belief. He probably is a consummate artist with unimpeachable skills. But what is most evident in his work is the art of making money… It is said that he is the most successful artist alive today.
I went to Basel to see the show. The museum’s entire spacious galleries are devoted to exposing these larger-than-life, children’s toys… One or two per room to gives the viewer ample time and space to absorb this incredible triumph in art. There are balloon wiggles (the type you buy from street vendors in the park). There are porcelaine dolls usually found as cheap prizes at the fun fair. He’s obviously gone to the Five and Dime, the local thrift shop and the roadside secondhand shops to rummage for toys, jewelry and Disney ceramic statuettes to glorify them as his idea of art.
This is one of several giant balloons each dominating a single gallery
I had to sneak this photo from around the corner as I was admonished by the guard, not to take photos!
I don't remember if these dolls came out of a Cracker Jack box or the fun fair?
Koons is an amazingly skilled. craftsman.. this Baroque mirror is a gem
This was my favorite piece in th exhibit - not because she was nude - but I loved the sense of humor
A startling piece of craftsmanship - alone, in another environment it would really hold its own
And when you are through paying homage to his blown-up toys, there is an entire gallery dedicated to the adoration of the modern vacuum cleaner.
The deification of the vacuum cleaner
Has Koons slipped off the edge? Hell no! He’s poking fun at the gullible art world, while he sits at home comfortably puffing his pipe for more dreams to fulfill.
I ran into Koons’ work some 12 years ago, at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. There he was commissioned to create a giant puppy out of flowers… when I say giant, I mean five stories tall! That was a very impressive achievement technically, keeping the flowers alive, watered, pruned and replaced as needed. This phase of his work was not neglected at the Beyeler, where he created an equally impressive Swiss Cow on the exquisite grounds of the museum.
My first encounter with Jeff Koons was at the Guggenheim in Bilbao fifteen years ago
Jeff Koons repeated his engineering feat in the Beyeler Garden - this time - A Swiss Cow
The beautiful garden of the Beyeler Fondation Museum
After Ernst Beyeler’s death the Fondation Beyeler is now run by the city of Basel and a group of esteemed curators. My Sister and Brother-in-law knew Ernst well and exclaimed, “Poor Ernst must be turning in his grave”
… I hope, for his eternal peace, that he is not.