Jeff Koons and The Perils of an Unregulated Art World

by Art Fag City on November 12, 2009 · 18 comments Newswire

POST BY PADDY JOHNSON

Jeff Koons. Image via: Flavorwire.

A few more quick responses to NYMagazine’s head critic Jerry Saltz, who generally holds more sympathy than most towards the New Museum’s rather complex web of insider relationships. He breaks those down as follows:

[Dakis] Joannou, a New Museum trustee, is friendly with Lisa Phillips, the museum's director. Her curator, Massimiliano Gioni, has worked previously with Joannou, and he oversaw the current three-floor Urs Fischer show. [Editor's note: Gioni is also apparently close with Joannou and they speak weekly]. Urs Fischer has curated shows for Joannou; Joannou also owns a good deal of Fischer's work. Fischer's art dealer is Gavin Brown, who also represents Elizabeth Peyton, Jeremy Deller, and Steven Shearer, all four of whom have had solo shows at the New Museum since it re-opened less than two years ago.

Let’s face it, that doesn’t look great for the museum. It’s not a great idea to be so closely associated with one commercial gallery. I don’t find single collection shows particularly problematic, mind you — I liked Sensations at The Brooklyn Museum nine years ago and was glad I had a chance to see it — but all these ties to one collector who is also a trustee make me nervous. That’s a lot of control over curatorial direction.

In any event, both former New Museum curator Dan Cameron and Jerry Saltz seem to find Jeff Koons’ slated curation of Dakis Joannou’s collection the most egregious problem. I haven’t been working in the art world as long as either of them — what do they know that I don’t?

  • http://hypothete.blogspot.com/ Duncan A.

    I’ve been following the discussion about this show on and off, and I guess I’m confused about the ethics problem. Is the New Museum a private business? If so, can’t they run whatever they want, regardless if it’s all insider goings-on? I hate to sound ignorant, but for all the press the New Museum has had lately (like William Powhida’s piece) I’d like to know if it’s just bad business practice or there are wider repercussions.

  • http://hypothete.blogspot.com/ Duncan A.

    I’ve been following the discussion about this show on and off, and I guess I’m confused about the ethics problem. Is the New Museum a private business? If so, can’t they run whatever they want, regardless if it’s all insider goings-on? I hate to sound ignorant, but for all the press the New Museum has had lately (like William Powhida’s piece) I’d like to know if it’s just bad business practice or there are wider repercussions.

  • http://www.postmastersart.com magda sawon

    Jeff Koons does not look at other art, period. Some artists do not, it’s fine. However a basic definition of curating something is to create internal and external context – he does not have tools for that.

  • http://www.postmastersart.com magda sawon

    Jeff Koons does not look at other art, period. Some artists do not, it’s fine. However a basic definition of curating something is to create internal and external context – he does not have tools for that.

  • http://carefullyaimeddarts.wordpress.com/ Carefully Aimed Darts

    Saltz does not include one additional thread of GBE-NuMU connections: Laura Hoptman’s husband is represented by Brown (this was in the NYT blog post highlighting these connections).

    The connection between collectors (and trustees) and museum institutions is what it is. I think what is most disappointing is that we expect better from the New Museum, and I don’t find the notion of a “blue chip”-oriented collection there very interesting, nor the notion of Koons being involved in as curator. People keep invoking the New Museum as an iconoclastic institution–including the current apologists who say this is a challenge to the models of private/public institution. I don’t see any evidence of this iconoclasm lately–maybe the Iannone-organized by a junior member of the curatorial team. Other than the museum’s marginalized spaces, recent solo show recipients have almost all been rep’d by galleries like Gladstone, GBE, 303, Green Naftali etc. David Goldblatt was something of an exception, and way less hip at that.

    Maybe Koons will unearth something truly amazing and everyone will eat their words. Otherwise, to invoke Bartleby, “I would prefer not to.”

  • http://carefullyaimeddarts.wordpress.com/ Carefully Aimed Darts

    Saltz does not include one additional thread of GBE-NuMU connections: Laura Hoptman’s husband is represented by Brown (this was in the NYT blog post highlighting these connections).

    The connection between collectors (and trustees) and museum institutions is what it is. I think what is most disappointing is that we expect better from the New Museum, and I don’t find the notion of a “blue chip”-oriented collection there very interesting, nor the notion of Koons being involved in as curator. People keep invoking the New Museum as an iconoclastic institution–including the current apologists who say this is a challenge to the models of private/public institution. I don’t see any evidence of this iconoclasm lately–maybe the Iannone-organized by a junior member of the curatorial team. Other than the museum’s marginalized spaces, recent solo show recipients have almost all been rep’d by galleries like Gladstone, GBE, 303, Green Naftali etc. David Goldblatt was something of an exception, and way less hip at that.

    Maybe Koons will unearth something truly amazing and everyone will eat their words. Otherwise, to invoke Bartleby, “I would prefer not to.”

  • Andrew

    Am I missing something or has no one bothered to point out that the New Museum could easily borrow comparable works to Jannou’s from multiple other sources?

    The entire point of this brouhaha is that they want to get if from Jannou either because it is expedient or because it helps Jannou by building his reputation. Surely the answer is the latter because presumably the pretext for the exhibition is to show us poor people a survey of big-bucks trendy contemporary art – but because of the single source they are in fact more specifically promoting only the tastes of one collector and couldn’t hope to represent the broader market if they wanted to.

    But I guess it’s a moot point seeing as there is no real curator anyway, just a decorator shuffling his patron’s treasures around, which makes sense because Jannou already curated it by buying it.

    And what kind of absurd statement is Saltz making about work exhibited in museums becoming overexposed and therefore less valuable?!?! That blows my mind it’s just such a backwards conclusion! Mr. Saltz; please flip through those glossy catalogs that Sotheby’s and Christie’s put out and look at the exhibition histories they cite in order to jack up the values.

    This is money in Jannou’s pocket – and ultimately in Koons’.

    Unless Jannou announces that he has donated every selected work to the museum along with the money to pay for storage and insurance this is disgusting. And it can’t be one of those phony back-out-of-it-later promissory gifts either.

  • Andrew

    Am I missing something or has no one bothered to point out that the New Museum could easily borrow comparable works to Jannou’s from multiple other sources?

    The entire point of this brouhaha is that they want to get if from Jannou either because it is expedient or because it helps Jannou by building his reputation. Surely the answer is the latter because presumably the pretext for the exhibition is to show us poor people a survey of big-bucks trendy contemporary art – but because of the single source they are in fact more specifically promoting only the tastes of one collector and couldn’t hope to represent the broader market if they wanted to.

    But I guess it’s a moot point seeing as there is no real curator anyway, just a decorator shuffling his patron’s treasures around, which makes sense because Jannou already curated it by buying it.

    And what kind of absurd statement is Saltz making about work exhibited in museums becoming overexposed and therefore less valuable?!?! That blows my mind it’s just such a backwards conclusion! Mr. Saltz; please flip through those glossy catalogs that Sotheby’s and Christie’s put out and look at the exhibition histories they cite in order to jack up the values.

    This is money in Jannou’s pocket – and ultimately in Koons’.

    Unless Jannou announces that he has donated every selected work to the museum along with the money to pay for storage and insurance this is disgusting. And it can’t be one of those phony back-out-of-it-later promissory gifts either.

  • greg.org

    I’ve not weighed in on this NuMu situation because I’ve always felt that because I know several people who get mentioned in it, anything I’d say would be reflexively discounted as apologia.

    But Jerry’s comment about trusting the New Museum kind of struck a chord, and I realize the main reason I don’t feel as worked up or outraged over what’s obviously a problematic or controversial situation, is *because* I know some of these people, and I, too, well, trust isn’t the right word in this context, but I give them the benefit of the doubt. At the least, I figure I can know or see where they’re coming from and can thus make up my own mind about what they do.

    Private collections and private museums are not some novelty [cf. Barnes, Stewart Gardner, Frick, Boijmans, van Beuningen]; they’re a significant reality, esp. in the contemporary art world. Take them or leave them for what they are. Why expect or even want them to “hope to represent the broader market”?

    If the Museum and its curators are transparent about their relationships with Dakis, let them show what they want, and then judge the result. If it turns out to be a facile, greatest hits parade or boys with too many toys, it’ll be obvious enough. Or it could actually be interesting.

    As for Koons, I think he does look at art, quite a bit, actually, and collects too. And I would expect him to know the Joannou collection extremely well. The question I wonder is whether he pulls it off or is a failed stunt,

  • greg.org

    I’ve not weighed in on this NuMu situation because I’ve always felt that because I know several people who get mentioned in it, anything I’d say would be reflexively discounted as apologia.

    But Jerry’s comment about trusting the New Museum kind of struck a chord, and I realize the main reason I don’t feel as worked up or outraged over what’s obviously a problematic or controversial situation, is *because* I know some of these people, and I, too, well, trust isn’t the right word in this context, but I give them the benefit of the doubt. At the least, I figure I can know or see where they’re coming from and can thus make up my own mind about what they do.

    Private collections and private museums are not some novelty [cf. Barnes, Stewart Gardner, Frick, Boijmans, van Beuningen]; they’re a significant reality, esp. in the contemporary art world. Take them or leave them for what they are. Why expect or even want them to “hope to represent the broader market”?

    If the Museum and its curators are transparent about their relationships with Dakis, let them show what they want, and then judge the result. If it turns out to be a facile, greatest hits parade or boys with too many toys, it’ll be obvious enough. Or it could actually be interesting.

    As for Koons, I think he does look at art, quite a bit, actually, and collects too. And I would expect him to know the Joannou collection extremely well. The question I wonder is whether he pulls it off or is a failed stunt,

  • Hi there

    Just wanted to say that the whole private collector/partially publicly funded museum is an obvious issue. HELLO. There is no need to argue that. There are more interesting collectors i.e. The Vogels who have a more interesting eye than what’s been in vogue for the last 20 years. I don’t know the collection per se but I am sure there is some great work in it. The problem is the mission of the New Museum, as I recall it was once upon a time a “radical” institution. Those days are over of course. That is so obvious it’s another HELLO. The NuMu is functioning like a high-level consulting firm at this point. The insidery thing is obvious, but that is not the problem, it’s just that as an institution it has a degree of responsibility towards the public that should ideally be greater than the responsibility it feels towards its board. But again, the public does not finance new buildings…

    I actually think Jeff Koons is an amazing ART COLLECTOR why not show **his** art collection? He has a great Courbet and incredible Renaissance sculptures that he bought at auction…THAT would be interesting.

  • Hi there

    Just wanted to say that the whole private collector/partially publicly funded museum is an obvious issue. HELLO. There is no need to argue that. There are more interesting collectors i.e. The Vogels who have a more interesting eye than what’s been in vogue for the last 20 years. I don’t know the collection per se but I am sure there is some great work in it. The problem is the mission of the New Museum, as I recall it was once upon a time a “radical” institution. Those days are over of course. That is so obvious it’s another HELLO. The NuMu is functioning like a high-level consulting firm at this point. The insidery thing is obvious, but that is not the problem, it’s just that as an institution it has a degree of responsibility towards the public that should ideally be greater than the responsibility it feels towards its board. But again, the public does not finance new buildings…

    I actually think Jeff Koons is an amazing ART COLLECTOR why not show **his** art collection? He has a great Courbet and incredible Renaissance sculptures that he bought at auction…THAT would be interesting.

  • Dave

    Yes, I can see how once this exhibition at NuMu begins it will once and for all validate Jeff Koons to the art world and he will probably go into the ranks of living artists who break the one million dollar mark at auction.

    Oh wait he already has.

    Seriously folks, I doubt this guy would have much trouble selling this work at auction given the results at Sothebys and Christies this month regardless of a NuMu exhibitino. Although I think the NuMu should certainly have written agreements about not selling X months post show and or donating (cash if no perm collection) but I think this is making a mountain out of a molehill.

    The world is run by connections, is it any surprise how this works? Do you really think curators will ever show work by artists they have no interest in?

    The tragedy that I see here is that I expect something more groundbreaking from NuMu than the already well established Koons.

  • Dave

    Yes, I can see how once this exhibition at NuMu begins it will once and for all validate Jeff Koons to the art world and he will probably go into the ranks of living artists who break the one million dollar mark at auction.

    Oh wait he already has.

    Seriously folks, I doubt this guy would have much trouble selling this work at auction given the results at Sothebys and Christies this month regardless of a NuMu exhibitino. Although I think the NuMu should certainly have written agreements about not selling X months post show and or donating (cash if no perm collection) but I think this is making a mountain out of a molehill.

    The world is run by connections, is it any surprise how this works? Do you really think curators will ever show work by artists they have no interest in?

    The tragedy that I see here is that I expect something more groundbreaking from NuMu than the already well established Koons.

  • http://alifeasart.blogspot.com/ Adam

    The whole problem I have with this is that the New Museum hasn’t provided the public with anything “new.” Having Jeff Koons curate a show of an individual’s collection would be fine if not for many problems or potential conflicts of interest that this show is almost certainly going to have!

    I am assuming that Koons will be inclined to include some of his work as Joannou is probably one of his major collectors. This already gives this show poor validity and merit. It becomes another case of celebrity driven entertainment and that is not what a museum should be about. I am sure they will sell tickets but at what cost?

    The New Museum never struck me as a museum that had any actual new ideas. Their shows have aptly been “un-monumental.” I agree with Dave, no curator is ever going to show work by artists they have no interest in. However couldn’t they try a bit harder to search through the thousands of under known YOUNG artists who are making work far more relevant to their viewers experience than a socialite who makes art for his rich friends.The Generational show was awful and when compared to the brilliant “Pictures Generation” at the Met which ran congruently to NuMu’s “Younger Than Jesus,” it is glaringly obvious that NuMu is showing recycled post-modern (or whatever) ideas.

    That said, I’d still offer to curate a true “Generational” exhibition at their museum without any personal interests other than a passion for the work, ideas and artists I show. I’d even do it with 1/1000 the cost that the Koons/Joannou/NuMu is costing. There is nothing new about catering to collectors or the art market. Arguably this is the least progressive thing that a “contemporary” institution can do…AND JEFF KOONS?!? HOW DOES HE EMBODY THE MSUEUM’S MISSION STATEMENT: “NEW ART, NEW IDEAS”? Koons hasn’t had a good idea since he put a bunch of Hoovers inside a display case in a ritualistic tribute to Andy Warhol and Duchamp. If they were still alive I am sure that they’d be guest curators at NuMu too.

    I hope that this show will prove us skeptics wrong so I will leave this comment open until I see for myself how this show plays out.

  • http://alifeasart.blogspot.com/ Adam

    The whole problem I have with this is that the New Museum hasn’t provided the public with anything “new.” Having Jeff Koons curate a show of an individual’s collection would be fine if not for many problems or potential conflicts of interest that this show is almost certainly going to have!

    I am assuming that Koons will be inclined to include some of his work as Joannou is probably one of his major collectors. This already gives this show poor validity and merit. It becomes another case of celebrity driven entertainment and that is not what a museum should be about. I am sure they will sell tickets but at what cost?

    The New Museum never struck me as a museum that had any actual new ideas. Their shows have aptly been “un-monumental.” I agree with Dave, no curator is ever going to show work by artists they have no interest in. However couldn’t they try a bit harder to search through the thousands of under known YOUNG artists who are making work far more relevant to their viewers experience than a socialite who makes art for his rich friends.The Generational show was awful and when compared to the brilliant “Pictures Generation” at the Met which ran congruently to NuMu’s “Younger Than Jesus,” it is glaringly obvious that NuMu is showing recycled post-modern (or whatever) ideas.

    That said, I’d still offer to curate a true “Generational” exhibition at their museum without any personal interests other than a passion for the work, ideas and artists I show. I’d even do it with 1/1000 the cost that the Koons/Joannou/NuMu is costing. There is nothing new about catering to collectors or the art market. Arguably this is the least progressive thing that a “contemporary” institution can do…AND JEFF KOONS?!? HOW DOES HE EMBODY THE MSUEUM’S MISSION STATEMENT: “NEW ART, NEW IDEAS”? Koons hasn’t had a good idea since he put a bunch of Hoovers inside a display case in a ritualistic tribute to Andy Warhol and Duchamp. If they were still alive I am sure that they’d be guest curators at NuMu too.

    I hope that this show will prove us skeptics wrong so I will leave this comment open until I see for myself how this show plays out.

  • yup yup yup yup

    it seems to go both ways, ida ekblad, who recently was included in younger than jesus, was just included in a group show at gavin brown.

  • yup yup yup yup

    it seems to go both ways, ida ekblad, who recently was included in younger than jesus, was just included in a group show at gavin brown.

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