I had a few hours to kill in Oxford about a month ago, so I decided to visit the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Ashmolean. As a student at Oxford, I got free entry to the exhibition so I decided to have a nosey.
Since I am not an art student, please just take all my words as a pleb’s uneducated opinions. Enjoy!
As soon as you enter, you are greeted by a floating basketball. I’m not entirely sure what the significance of this is – is the sport balancing somewhere between rising and falling? – but the technical skill involved in creating this is marvellous.
The ball will naturally float, so it has to be filled with pure water, which is denser than the solution outside of it. However, water will diffuse in and out of the ball, as will the ions, so the solution has to be changed every so often and the ball must be refilled with water. Fascinating.
The steel rabbit is designed to look like it is a balloon – but it is, in fact, steel. The creases in it have been deliberately put there to make it look like it could pop any second, which contrasts with the actual strength of the material. Definitely interesting to a materials scientist.
The balloon theme was continued onto the weird pink balloon sculpture of Aphrodite. There is something sensual about the voluptuous shape, but I think it also veers on the vulgar.
The famous ballerina doing her shoe is there, and it reminded me of Disney princesses – there was something ironic about all this shininess and kitschiness, but a plaque on the wall said that “he [Koons] insists it is not. ‘Irony causes too much critical contemplation’.”
This made me think – is there too much critical contemplation in this world? Or too little?
Personally, I think there is not enough critical contemplation in this world. How can you get your life together without some critical contemplation, let alone make decisions about other people and the world around you?
Finally, in the last room, there are some pieces from Koons’ Gazing Ball collection. I found this room to be both the most and the least interesting.
Apart from the weird letterbox/engine/plant pot amalgamation, the rest of the pieces are just reproductions of masterpieces with a blue ball stuck on top. Many, many thousands of imperfect cobalt balls had to be thrown away until they could find one perfect one to be mounted onto the artwork. This, I thought, was the most interesting – how they managed to create such perfect gazing balls.
However, Koons did not create these – he got his workshop assistants to do it for him. Although I understand even Da Vinci had a huge workshop with lots of helpers, at least he had some creativity. These art pieces just seem to rip off other artwork; worse, Koons didn’t even get his own hands dirty doing it!
From this exhibition, I think I conclude that I’m not a big fan of Koons. His artwork is almost mocking those who take his work literally. He doesn’t offer anything beyond the idea that we should accept his work for what it is – sensual, reflective rip-offs? – and perhaps, we should do that. This attitude causes too much cognitive dissonance for me – I’m searching for more interesting, deeper meaning beyond what’s in front of me – and maybe that is a fault of mine.
What do you think of Jeff Koons and his work? Let me know in the comments!