Hardcore porn, balloon animals, choo-choo trains, seaside
tat and mountains of play-doh. It can only be a Jeff Koons retrospective.
He’s one of the most talked-about artists in the word, so it’s
pretty incredible that there’s never been a major Koons show in London before. His
name is synonymous with American Post-Pop; his work digests the trash of
contemporary culture and spits it back out in lurid pantomime. Koons is a millionaire, many many times over.
His works sell for astronomical, record-breaking sums.
It is fitting, then, that his first big exhibition in the
capital should come courtesy of Damien Hirst, his younger British descendent,
at the latter's Newport Street Gallery. The artists share a lot of common ground, not
least the hatred levelled at them by many a-critic. (“the
world's most overpraised child, a disgrace to his generation” / “lobotomy
by art...the triumph of stupidity" apiece).
Photo by Culture Whisper
They've become brands, who’ve got money-making down to a
fine-art, as it were. Both artists employ a team of assistants to actually make
the work; Hirst has around 150. If you're feeling particularly generous, you
could compare these set-ups to Renaissance workshops. We aren’t: it’s a pretty
Frauds; visionaries: whatever your take on these two (and
the arrogantly-timed 7:30am press view) you can’t deny that NOW is a
perfectly-executed show. Spanning thirty-five years of Koons’ career, it takes up all six of Newport Gallery’s spaces - and beautifully so.
Despite the gaudiness of these works, each one is given its own habitat; allowed to speak for itself. There is surprisingly little clash.
Some of Koons’ most famous works are here. We have his early
floating basketballs in a tank, which immediately makes you think of Hirst’s
shark – they share a jutting optical illusion. The balloon animals are here in
fine fettle; his 2013 blue monkey towers
over visitors, while Tweetypie begs for a hug in 2009’s Titi.
If you like Koons, you’ll like this show. But it’s just
possible that malcontents might be converted. As you wander through these
rooms, some of the pieces that seem, on paper, ridiculous, start to make sense.
Koons deals in contradiction: the tweetypie balloon that looks set to blow away
is in fact, heavy and solid. The aluminium mountain of play-doh is so lifelike
that you miss the powdery almond vanilla smell.
Paradox, as the artist says
himself is “a powerful tool. The
contradictions in my personality run deep. In part, I am a sham, a con man. But
I also have a sense of integrity that comes through in my work."
Worth that trip to Vauxhall after all.
|What||Jeff Koons, Newport Street Gallery|
|Where||Newport Street Gallery, Newport Street, London, SE11 6AJ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Vauxhall (underground)|
18 May 16 – 16 Oct 16, Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
|Website||Click here for more information|