New York Magazine‘s critic Jerry Saltz loses his patience with Jeff Koons, Dakkis Joannou, The New Museum and a few others:
the overwhelming impression I came away with was, Wow, these two guys are really sick puppies. They’ve got sex, shit, birth, and death on the brain. Maybe we all do. But the work displayed here is especially aggressive, and short on nuance, subtlety, and seduction. Perhaps to the New Museum’s credit, much of it would never be shown in any other major New York museum. It’s hard to imagine Kiki Smith’s life-size sculpture of a man performing autofellatio displayed in MoMA’s atrium, for example. Or Pawel Althamer’s live crucifixion reenactment at the Whitney. The sheer amount of transgressiveness, at least, brings a bracing real-life quality of grit and truthfulness to the show. It’s also in keeping with the museum’s stated aim, “to support new art … not yet familiar to mainstream audiences.” There’s plenty of work here that people outside the community of specialists and aficionados don’t often get to see.
The art world has not embraced the show (to put it mildly), and here’s why. In playing to its largest audience to date, the New Museum is not only pandering, but trying to trump the competition with the undeclared game of “collect the collector.” At the show’s core is a distorted and depressing reality: Joannou’s collection is drawn from a tiny slice of the art world—the superrich, the super-hyped and the supermale. (Barely a quarter of the work is by women.) It includes far too many famous artists who sell to major collectors for vast sums. It’s a history of the winners of one particular game—a narrative that’s simultaneously blinkered, elitist, and annoying.
Less than the Sum of its Parts (New York)