bəˈnäl,bəˈnal/adjectiveso lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.
“songs with banal, repeated words”
On November 30, 2012 , Jeff Koons, star of the blue chip art galaxy, was awarded the first United States Medal of Art by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The main reason given for selecting Koons is that he is very famous and shows in top of the market art galleries. In the honorary speech, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton recognized Koons for the time in that year when he spoke before an audience of 1000 listeners in China. According to Secretary of State Clinton Mr Koons “inspired cross-cultural appreciation and thought-provoking discussions among the city’s art community”. Inspire he did- but not exactly in the way Koons and Clinton fantasized
“One of the great characteristics of our country are our public-private partnerships. They are really at the core of how we do everything. De Tocqueville noticed that, but we’ve continued to perfect and increase our extraordinary partnerships between government and business, between civil society and academia. Our partnerships are really at the core of who we are and what we do. And this program could not exist without those partners. So on behalf of the Obama Administration, and especially everyone who works in our Diplomatic Corps around the world, we have been blessed by your generosity……
[Each of these artists] are living testaments to the timeless and unending human urge to create and connect,” she continued. “So they provide us with another language of diplomacy, one that evokes our universal aspirations as human beings, our common challenges, and our responsibilities for thinking through and addressing the problems that we face together……
Just think of what each of these artists means for people yearning to express themselves, that young artist living under a repressive regime, that budding painter who’s not quite sure where he or she fits in. Now, not all of these people will ever meet any of these artists, but they will learn about them and themselves, maybe even know something of their spirit and tap into a deeper level of inspiration, because they will encounter their works………”. Hillary’s amazing speech!
On July 29 2014, artnet news reported that a Chinese Company is producing copies of Koons work, which is to say the company is turning the tables on Koons, on Clinton, and on the USA.
All the while that the high end art elite in the western world was waxing prolific about Koon’s tribute- or was it a diatribe ?- to banality, someone was making the so called banal art work and someone else was making a living selling it. Strip down a layer of the glossy rhetorical surface and the subject matter of Koons art is not banality, it is making a mockery of cultural objects being primarily produced in China and other global low wage labor markets which are both ridiculed and celebrated as banal by the intellectual elites of the western world. Is this what diplomacy has come to ?
As an artist, Koons taps into the philosophy of global capitalist marketing luxury to the wealthy while producing it in low paid labor markets. Koons doesn’t produce his own work in China- at least not yet. He hire hires USA workers to produce his astronomically priced work which resembles copies, made larger than life, of work that is often produced in international low wage markets and then sold in USA markets . Alternatively, Koon’s art is appropriated from ordinary things- such as his balloon dog, looking exactly like an over sized dog made out of a twisted balloon but in Koons case made out of stainless steel, a very expensive material. If Koons works are not direct copies of something else they look like they are trying to be so generic as to be devoid of any quality beyond commercialism.
In 2012 China, producer nation, has become wealthy and Koons and Hillary are courting China’s favors. Can Koons and Clinton really be surprised that those who are the makers of objects which Koons ridicules in his art will apply the same business strategy to the selling of the most expensive art in the world as they do for everything else- produce it for less! Are not the Chinese known for knocking off American designs and technology? How disconnected are Koons and Clinton from the culture of the audience before whom Koons delivers his speech? Koons is the producer of the most expensive objects in the world which are often copies of work produced in China! Here in China now to inspire you! And Inspire he did ! Now the nation of the low wage laborer are making copies of Koons’s luxury art! How post-modern is that? Will the Chinese copies of the Koons copies of objects made in China succeed in deflating the value of Koons work? And then in turn will the deflation in the value of Koons work deflate the value of his imitators- creating the ultimate art world downward spiral? Will the appropriation of Jeff Koons imitative art work by those who are the objects of imitation be heralded as the next big thing in Post Modern Art ? Commercialism appropriating the the title of high art by producing it in less expensive materials and making more money by selling to to the masses than Koons selling it to the wealthy elite? – Just another international dialogue taking place in with one of the languages of diplomacy!
If the price of Koons’s work starts tumbling down, it seems apropos. The internal message coming from Koons work is down and out despite it’s expensive price tag. It is down right cynical and out of internal inspiration. Jeff Koons has nothing to say beyond mocking the ordinary and the importance of cold hard cash. There is nothing at the center and no true development as an artist. Koons keeps on repeating versions of the same thought he had in the 1980’s and then sold that thought to the world of art & stock alliances- the alliance that built the eighties art market in which Koons rose to fame and wealth and Koons participated in both, working as a wall street trader before becoming a rock star in the arts. Now he is the anointed diplomatic ambassador of administration of The United State’s first rock star president !
The ugliest moment in Koon’s career was when he mounted a show of over sized photographs of himself and his Italian Porn Star wife, La Cicciolina having sex. If Koons ‘s work is cynical and empty- then this is the darkest chapel of the Koons religion. Koons is making his mark on the art world, canine style. Porn is as cynical and empty as the involuntary message of Koons’s work which speaks on its own and cannot be helped with carefully crafted rhetoric.
Recently, in Maine in one of the forums surrounding the Brand Company’s newest incarnation as art dealers, I said that I just didn’t get why huge oversize pictures of Jeff Koons engaged in acts of sex with his porn star wife and hanging on the walls of the Leo Castelli Gallery (actually it was the Sonnebend Gallery) was anything other than over sized pornography. It was suggested by Ed Beem, the author of the article, that I responded to Koons work that way because I do not understand it:
Mr Beem claims there is an eternal international dialogue coming from Koon’s work but all he can say about it is that the marketplace is a part of it- as if that were something so easy to miss for those uneducated in the proper thought process for understanding Koons’s high art! But Beem is right ! There in the marketplace lies the smidgen of content in Koons work- but barely a smidgen and that is totally disconnected from the real international dialogue from the world responding to Koons’s cynical marketplace objects. Koons turned ordinary objects of commerce into fine art for no other reason than making it over sized and out of very expensive materials and selling it at a high price. The eternal international dialogue is reflected in the Chinese doing what they always do in international trade. The Chinese copy products made by others and produce and sell them for less. When Koons delivered his speech in China- that is the international exchange that he engaged. That’s the eternal international dialogue about art which has made the marketplace part (all?) of their art, Mr Beem. The eternal ubiquitous dialogue takes place in the real world of global commerce!
The true value of art lies in the making of it. Owning a work of fine art conveys a certain status, but, more importantly, it permits the collector to participate, albeit vicariously, in the ongoing search for meaning that is the work of all serious art.
Koons is one of those artists who prides himself on never touching is own artwork, instead hiring others to create it under his instructions. Like an aristocrat, Koons keeps the actual process of making the art at an arm’s distance. But Koons is a marketplace art star and that is what some in Maine mistake for “serious art”- in other words “investment art”- not just an object of beauty and meaning to the individual, which decorates the walls, but art representing a high end price tag ! Beem speaks for a faction that yearns to re-invent Maine as yet another extension of the New York City art market. Mainers need not buy into that. We have our own life style and values which intrinsically finds it way into the genuine voice of Maine artists living and working in the unique locality which is Maine. By being true to who we are, we can also be part of an eternal cross cultural dialogue- taking place in an entirely different galaxy than the one inhabited by Koons. A galaxy in which marketing is just a function that enables the artists to express a higher content- not where marketing has become the one and only content of art, which is the mark made by Koons in a high priced art world, gazing at its own navel and mocking itself.