So much as been written in the British press, and beyond, about the new Pop Life show at the Tate Modern that it is hard to remember it opened just days ago. And yet seemingly everyone has weighed in some way or another. Even so, this piece in the Financial Times by Jackie Wullschlager. There’s too much here, really, for one post but no one wants to see so many more mentions of this one museum show. So let’s keep it to a long quotation where Wullschlager makes this surprising and unexpected point about sexual politics and Pop! art:
The undercurrent of sexual politics is the saddest thing about this show, for it wholly divides the male and female artists in it and suggests that the sexual revolution worked only in men’s favour. Thus the baroque exaggerations of Koons and Murakami are banal but gleeful, comic and – despite the artists’ protestations of sincerity – they invite ironic, detached readings. By contrast, the life-as-art interventions of the women are pathetic, and witless, serving only to emphasise the triumphalism of male sexual fantasy that goes hand-in-hand with celebrity here.
In this context, Murakami (“colourfulness, cuteness, simplicity – that’s my aesthetic”) and Koons (“I am trying to make art be competitive in a competitive society”) are both beneficiaries of the democratisation of taste in the 1960s, when critical hegemony disappeared and low/high art boundaries evaporated. Koons developed this to an extreme in his “Made in Heaven” (1991) and “Banality” (1988) series, telling audiences, “Don’t divorce yourself from your true being. Embrace it. That’s the only way you can move on to become a new upper class.”
Wullschlager closes with these words of praise for Damien Hirst. It is hard to read this without constantly flashing to the images of Hirst’s new paintings and wondering if the same person who created those paintings is this artist:
Hirst, represented by a selection from his Beautiful Inside My Head show-sale-performance at Sotheby’s last year, soars above such works as unquestionably the most important artist here after Warhol. Inventor of a fresh way of making art, he uses a new repertoire of materials – animals in formaldehyde, pharmaceutical cabinets – which, though lately co-opted to play an art market game, were always about more than that. Hirst is Warhol’s descendant not only as businessman but in his obsession with death, in the nuances of melancholy and romance coursing through his oeuvre. Indebted to the purity of minimalism, his works say confidently, “I am what I am”. Koons and Murakami’s works say, “I am what I am worth”, which, when the music stops, will not be very much at all.
The Artist as Global Brand (Financial Times)