‘It Must Be Nice to be Your Own Medici’


koonsThis Page Six item on Jeff Koons’s townhouse combination project isn’t really news. But the comment from the neighbor is just too good to pass up especially in an era when we’re told the notional value of the entire Koons retrospective at the Whitney:

A ­local renter added, “It must be nice to not only be an artist but to be your own Medici.” Koons’ ­office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The homes currently total 21,726 of interior square footage, records show, and Koons’ approved plan will bring that down to 19,325 square feet. Peter Pennoyer is listed as architect.He fittingly once worked on Keith Haring’s Soho Pop Shop and the Warhol Factory.The architect on the 2010 plan was reportedly listed as Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects, who worked on the Yale University Art Gallery and Carnegie Hall.

Jeff Koons’ gets OK to build mega-mansion (Page Six)

What’s Up, Jeff? The Fall and Rise of Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Rabbit

Although he can’t help but make it about himself, Jerry Saltz has an excellent essay on the Jeff Koons retrospective opening at the Whitney. It’s sometimes hard to remember the great art that Koons is capable of making—and if you refuse to believe that you really need to read Saltz; but, more important, it is worth looking back to the moment when Koons made himself anathema to artists and art historians even before his second coming on the art market (which, in many ways, has been the apotheosis of the Contemporary art market over the last 15 years) made him anathema to those who feel the success of the art market itself makes Koons’s art all about money.

Saltz starts with how Koons established himself.

Then everything fell apart on November 23, 1991, when “Made in Heaven” opened at Sonnabend Gallery. I remember that day, in front of the painting of Staller straddling and being penetrated by Koons, when I saw Jeff with the legendary gallerist Leo Castelli and noted the look of horror and awe on the dealer’s face. Koons looked at me and said, “Jerry, don’t you think that Ilona’s asshole is the center of the universe?” The paintings appeared among marble self-portrait busts, polychrome sculptures of dogs and cherubs, small glass works depicting Koons getting a blow job or performing cunnilingus. The gallery was packed every day for a month. Few male artists in the history of art have shown themselves with an erection, let alone having sex. Koons had found a point in taste lower than pornography. Then the axe dropped. The village turned on him.

In an art world that said it wanted people to be free, at the exact moment everyone rallied to defend artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Karen Finley for their forays into sexuality, Koons had gone too far. He became the pariah that many see him as today, a sort of American Taliban. Rosalind Krauss called him “repulsive”; Yve-Alain Bois went with “crude”; Benjamin Buchloh wrote that Koons is among the “neurasthenic victims of opportunistic assimilation” (whatever that means). The local art writer John Yau later sniffed that he boycotted a Koons public sculpture because “some things you shouldn’t do.” So pure; so tenured. Whatever. I still say it’s thrilling to see this work in a museum — even if the objects are better than the paintings.

Since then, Koons has never been in a Whitney Biennial or Documenta. He’s continually accused of cynicism.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that no matter what one thinks of the Made in Heaven series, it presages the centrality of pornography in 20th century visual and mass culture in a way that is uncanny.

Jeff Koons, Creator and Destroyer of Worlds  (Vulture)

Mysterious Koons Popeye Appears at Sotheby’s for $25m

9141 Koons, Popeye

You’ll remember that a Koons Popeye statue was at the center of the row between Koons’s dealer Larry Gagosian and Ronald Perleman a few years ago. This statue does not seem to be the granite one that was at issue in the contretemps. But the appearance of this 7ft-tall work that is an edition of 3 (the other two are owned by whom? Gagosian and Steven Cohen, of course) does raise some questions about the consignor. The $25m estimate raises all sorts of other questions.


Brant to Sell Koons Balloon Dog (Orange) at Christie’s in November for $35-55m


Carol Vogel has the announcement that Peter Brant is selling his version of Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog at Christie’s this November with an estimate of $35 to $55m. The proceeds will create an endowment for Brant’s art foundation in Greenwich but the timing is somewhat defiant given Brant’s recent mixed success with selling Koons’s work even if there is a major retrospective coming.

But  the value in the orange balloon dog may lie as much with the work being held by other A+-list collectors. By getting out first, Brant may be monetizing their ownership of the work more than he is cashing in on the reputational boost a Koons retrospective might bring:

“Balloon Dog (Orange)” is one of a series of five, each in a different color, conceived by the artist in the early 1990s. Four celebrated collectors own the others: Steven A. Cohen, the hedge-fund billionaire, has a yellow one; Eli Broad, the Los Angeles financier, owns a blue one; François Pinault, the French luxury goods magnate and owner of Christie’s, has the magenta version; and Dakis Joannou, the Greek industrialist, has his in red.

Inside Art: Koons Dog for Adoption (New York Times)

How the Top of the Top of the Contemporary Art Market Works (in 125 words or less)


Carl Swanson’s excellent New York Magazine cover story on Jeff Koons contains this succinct and accurate description of what happens in the narrow working space at the apex of the Contemporary art market:

The circle of collectors and dealers is so small and so awash in cash that the process can seem to an outsider a bit like a rigged game, in which a bad deal can be considerably more valuable than a good one. If you buy a giant balloon toy for $30 million, you may have spent a few million more than you had to or even expected to; but you’ve set the value of that work and also elevated the value of all of the balloon toys in your collection. Which is especially good, since there aren’t very many people who can afford to spend $30 million on a giant balloon toy, and those who can tend to take pleasure in cornering a market.

Jeff Koons Is the Most Successful American Artist Since Warhol. So What’s the Art World Got Against Him? (New York Magazine)

Jeff Koons's $50m Picasso Collection

Laura Gilbert has discovered a number of works owned by Jeff Koons on display at the Met in New York. In the process, she’s also discovered a website that appears to be a catalogue of Koons’s collection based upon works that are already known to be owned by the artist.

Working backward from the list, we find three Picasso’s that were bought at the height of the art boom for a combined total of $51.68m, a substantial amount of money even for wealthy artist like Koons.

Superstar Koons’ Sideline: Loaning Old Masters to the Met, Including the Dreadful. Meantime, 51 of His Own Holdings Appear Online (Art Unwashed)

Picasso, Deux Personnages (Christie’s)

Picasso, Dora Maar Tete de Femme, 1941 (Christie’s)

Picasso, Le Baiser (Sotheby’s)


Pink Panther in Perspective

The Master, Judd Tully, lays out the landscape on Sotheby’s disappointing Pink Panther sale. Even below the low estimate, the price still pushes the artist’s market along:

a Sotheby’s specialist defensively pointed out after the sale, the last “Pink Panther” to come to the market sold at Christie’s in 1999 to Peter Brant for a then-record $1.8 million against a presale estimate of $600-800,000. Last night’s “Panther” also crushed the previous high for a Koons’s porcelain, set at Sotheby’s New York in May 2008 when “Naked,” another “Banality” piece from 1988, sold for $9 million (est. $1.5-2 million). The new mark ranks as the third-most-expensive Koons at auction, trailing the giant, heavy metal “Balloon Flower – Magenta” from 1995-2000, which sold at Christie’s London in June 2008 for $26 million, and “Hanging Heart” (1994-2006), which sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2007 for $23.6 million.

Excessive Estimates Dampen Enthusiasm at Sotheby’s $128 Million Contemporary Art Auction (Artinfo.com)


Small Shop Beats Big Artist Koons

The San Francisco shop Park Life has won its stare-down with Jeff Koons’s lawyers. Kate Taylor tells the epic drama:

On January 20, its lawyer, Jedediah Wakefield of Fenwick and West, working pro bono, sued Jeff Koons LLC in San Francisco federal court, asking the court to declare that Park Life wasn’t infringing on Mr. Koons’s i rights. “They very quickly indicated they weren’t interested in putting up a fight,” Mr. Wakefield said of Mr. Koons’s lawyers. Ultimately, Jeff Koons LLC agreed not to pursue the gallery for the sale of the bookends, and the gallery agreed not to indicate that the bookends were by Mr. Koons, which, Mr. Wakefield added, “they hadn’t done and weren’t going to do anyway.” As a result of the deal, he said, he was planning to file on Thursday for a dismissal of the declaratory judgment suit.

All Bark, No Bite: Settlement Reached in Balloon Dog Dispute (Arts Beat/New York Times)

Koons v. Originality

Jed Perl is no fan of the appropriationist idea in art. That doesn’t stop him from writing a strong précis of the argument on The New Republic’s site as well as offering his own uncompromising dismissal. The quote runs long to do justice to Perl, not appropriate The New Republic’s content. What’s worth noting is Perl’s ability to draw the Koons balloon-dog legal case into the Warhol authentication controversy, citing art historian Rainer Crone along the way:

Jeff Koons, when accused of copyright infringement, tends to settle out of court. One has the impression that he prefers writing a check to actually discovering what a judge or a jury might have to say. But in his heart of hearts Koons probably feels that if Poussin became Poussin by stealing from Titian and Raphael, why on earth is he being bothered by questions of copyright and fair use? With the balloon dog case, he has decided to go on the offensive. Crone’s argument that “the rejection of authorship” can be “an essential feature of authenticity and originality,” although absurd to some, is not so easily refuted. One can, if so inclined, certainly find support for this view in the history of Western art. Don’t the gorgeously impersonal, porcelain-like surfaces of Ingres’s greatest portraits suggest a rejection of authorship? Continue Reading