01 Jul, 2009

Jeff Koons

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Serpentine Gallery, London

Jeff Koons leaves me feeling empty. Or is he just reaffirming the emptiness that’s already there? The first Koons works I ever saw were a number of shiny new vacuum cleaners in the mid-1980s, sealed in pristine, under-lit Plexiglass display cases, ready to roll in their hygienic, dust-free boxes. They seemed to be a take on both Marcel Duchamp’s readymades and pop art, with a postmodern futuristic chill. He also showed bronze life-vests, which I took as surreal gags. He denied this when I interviewed him in 1989 at the height of his fame as bad boy of appropriation art, the saviour of banality and the beau of Italian porn star Cicciolina. Koons was fun, and a symptom of 80s excess. He also had a great eye for product placement. Nowadays his art is inflated, not just the prices.

The Serpentine is filled with an elegant display of blow-up beach toys, recast with trompe-l’oeil accuracy in aluminium, and mixed with rubbish baskets, stacks of patio chairs, stepladders, industrial chains and mesh fences. It’s all entirely painless. A raft of cooking utensils dangles beneath a dolphin’s belly. It’s as if the later work of Ashley Bickerton had collided with Cady Noland. A daft dirigible lobster pays homage to Salvador Dalí, and plays with topless models, Popeye and layers of abstract nonsense in Koons’s computer assisted paintings.

I think Koons wants to give us lots of innocent pleasure, with an art-savvy twist. Maybe he wants to save us from ourselves. This is art for a world with deep pockets and a short attention span.

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