A Short Documentary on Artist Jeff Koons, Narrated by Scarlett Johansson

If you don’t move, noth­ing hap­pens. — Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, the sub­ject of Oscar Boyson’s recent pop video essay, above, is sure­ly one of the most wide­ly known liv­ing artists. As with fel­low artists Damien Hirst and Cindy Sher­man the spot­light has pro­duced an army of detrac­tors who know very lit­tle about him, or his large, far-rang­ing body of work.

The choice of Scar­lett Johans­son to pro­vide snarky sec­ond-per­son nar­ra­tion might not jol­ly Koons’ naysay­ers into sus­pend­ing judg­ment long enough for a prop­er rein­tro­duc­tion. (His show-and-tell dis­play of his Venus of Wil­len­dorf cof­fee mug caus­es her to quip, “You sexy moth­er­fuck­er.” Ugh.)

On the oth­er hand, there’s rap­per Phar­rell Williams’ onscreen obser­va­tion that, “We need haters out there. They’re our walk­ing affir­ma­tions that we’re doing some­thing right.”

The poten­tial for clam­orous neg­a­tive reac­tion has nev­er pro­pelled Koons to shy away from doing things on the grand scale in the pub­lic are­na, as the giant open air dis­play of such sculp­tures as “Seat­ed Bal­le­ri­na,” “Bal­loon Flower,” and “Pup­py” will attest.

Sure­ly, the genial affect he brings to the film is not what those who abhor “Made in Heav­en,” a series of erot­ic 3‑D self-por­traits co-star­ring his then-wife, porn-star Ilona “Cic­ci­oli­na” Staller, would have expect­ed.

Nor does he come off as a pan­der­ing, high priest of kitsch, some­thing cer­tain to dis­ap­point those who abhor “Michael Jack­son and Bub­bles,” his gaudy, larg­er-than-life glazed porce­lain sculp­ture of the King of Pop and his pet chimp.

“Kitsch is a word I real­ly don’t believe in,” he smiles (pos­si­bly all the way to the bank).

Instead, he veers toward reflec­tion, a fit­ting pre­oc­cu­pa­tion for an artist giv­en to mir­ror-pol­ished stain­less steel and more recent­ly, gaz­ing balls of the sort com­mon­ly found on 20th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can lawns. He wants view­ers to take a good look at them­selves, along with his work.

Those whose hearts are set against him are unlike­ly to be swayed, but the unde­cid­ed and open-mind­ed might soft­en to a list of influ­ences includ­ing Duchamp, Dali, DaVin­ci, Frag­o­nard, Berni­ni, and Manet.

Dit­to the opin­ions of a diverse array of talk­ing heads like Frank Gehry, Lar­ry Gagosian, and fel­low post-mod­ernist David Salle, who prais­es Koons’ artis­tic ded­i­ca­tion to “every­day Amer­i­can-style hap­pi­ness.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Waters: The Point of Con­tem­po­rary Art

Cindy Sherman’s Insta­gram Account Goes Pub­lic, Reveal­ing 600 New Pho­tos & Many Strange Self-Por­traits

Teens Pon­der Mean­ing of Con­tem­po­rary Art

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.