The New York Times Thinks Jeff Koons is a Terrible Photographer

Posted by David Ozanich — 14 Oct 2010

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Who's a fan of Jeff Koons? I am. I like his big crazy "balloon" sculptures and his globetrotting "Puppy" was rather wonderful when I saw it several years ago. His "Michael Jackson and Bubbles" in porcelain is sublime. He's having a bit of a moment here in New York since he has not only a show of an infamous photographic series at a tony Upper East Side gallery (in a townhouse no less), but also because his “Balloon Flower (Blue)” is going on view in Rockefeller Plaza from October 26th to November 10th when it is auctioned off at Christie's for an estimated $16 million.

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You know who’s not a fan? Roberta Smith of the New York Times. DAMN! She laid into him today in this MUST READ review of his “Made in Heaven Paintings” currently on view at the Luxembourg & Dayan gallery.

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Some background: Jeff Koons, a major contemporary artist who may be “over-hyped” as Smith says, was married to an Italian porn star/politician (I’m not making this up, folks) known formally as Ilona Staller and informally as Ciccolina. About 20 years ago he made a series of pictures of them in sexually explicit situations. Even though they get called paintings, really they are photographs manipulated with various tools.

I haven’t read a review this harsh in a long while and it’s pretty unreal. She manages to describe the series as “bad art” and “aesthetically unfulfilling” in just the first two paragraphs. But that’s just the beginning. Here is a selection of my favorite quotes:

“The grainy inkjet images printed on canvas are repellent...”

“Since Mr. Koons’s face is never visible within images that feature his supposed erection, rumors of a body double have been, well, rampant for years.”

“...they are visual train wrecks...”

“the inkjet monstrosities of “Made in Heaven” are notable as his first, failed attempt to make paintings.”

OK, OK. I think that’s enough of that. "Inkjet monstrosities" is pretty scathing though and it’s rare for the Times to reference the size of a man’s penis. Smith, who is one of the most influential art critics in the world thanks to her position at the Times, does have a few nice things to say about Koons:

But, interestingly, they were immediately followed by, and maybe even precipitated, some of Mr. Koons’s best work, in sculpture. One was the monumental flower-covered “Puppy” (1992), an exuberance of innocence that many have viewed as an attempt at redemption from the sex pictures. Others include the brightly colored, highly reflective balloon dogs, whose implicitly polymorphous shapes and apertures can be seen as endlessly erotic and far sexier than the hard-core blatancy on view here.

I decided against posting any truly outrageous photos from this series, but have included a couple tamer shots as well as photos of Puppy and Michael Jackson and Bubbles. You know you want to see this show now, right? Anything that makes the Times freak out like this has got to be worth seeing. I think I might have to make a field trip uptown.

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