King of Kitsch

I just read recently that artist Jeff Koons had a sculptural exhibit last fall at Versailles. I thought this was an amazing concept because of how his work interacts with the history of the location.


Koons is an artist that some critics say is a part of the modern movement, while others state he is simply kitschy (low-brow, bad taste). Rather than dismiss him as low-brow, I like to think of him of bringing kitsch into the fine art world. I find him so interesting since he has cultivated his persona, much like Andy Warhol did. Koons went as far as to hire an image consultant. It's this type of behavior that makes some critics believe he is simply a self-promoter without substance. But many art collectors disagree and are willing to pay up to $15 million for a piece of his work. Obviously he's doing something right.

1701
The large scale sculptural work of Koons borders on a theatricality that I think would have pleased Louis XIV. Known as the Sun King, he embraced the dramatic in decor and dress. He wore his red heels to emphasize his shapely legs and was even known to dress in character costumes like that of Apollo.


King of France, King of Kitsch, King of Pop...all under one roof.
"Michael Jackson and Bubbles" 1998
The decadence of the sculpture mirrors the Baroque decor.

And the dauphine of drama can't be left out of the mix...Marie Antoinette. An assemblage of vacuums was placed in the room with royal portraits, including those of Marie Antoinette. When asked why vacuums were roomed with these women, Koons replied that vacuums are womb-like. Hmmm, interesting...

"Lobster" 2003



Koons says that his work does not have any hidden meanings. These bright, shiny and oversized sculptures are designed to mean whatever you perceive at first sight.
"Balloon Dog" 1999-2000I think it's interesting to consider modern culture's desire for big and shiny things like houses, cars, jewelry and how the sculptures speak to that behavior. Though these behaviors may have changed, at least for a while, with the more frugalista mindset, the idea of shiny baubles and toys is still relevant.
The garden sculpture was designed with the elaborate Versailles gardens in mind.


Whether critics agree or not, I can't help but heart Jeff Koons.
What do you think? Critic's choice or not so much?

For more on the 2008 exhibit, visit the NY Times or buy the exhibition book on Amazon.