Strictly Critical Video: Gopnik and Viveros-Fauné at the Whitney’s Koons Retrospective


Christian Viveros-Fauné: These are perfect examples of . . . almost Rococo vapidity.

Blake Gopnik: I think he’s properly fucked-up in the way great artists are.



For a moment filled with lots of money and lots of luxury, our critics view the most expensive show ever at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The Jeff Koons retrospective opened June 27 to great fanfare. Some four hundred people attended the press conference. Media outlets nationwide focused on the artist best known for shiny shiny stainless steel–cast sculptures filled with hot air, and the public began to descend upon the Marcel Breuer building to ogle the eye candy-slash-art. Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles. Basketballs suspended in formaldehyde. The yellow Balloon Dog worth $58.4 million. The giant pile of colorful Play-Doh.

The Whitney confers upon Koons the stature of an all-time great artist: “Comprising almost 150 objects dating from 1978 to the present, this exhibition will be the most comprehensive ever devoted to the artist’s groundbreaking oeuvre,” its press materials state. “By reconstituting all of his most iconic works and significant series in a chronological narrative, the retrospective will allow visitors to understand Koons’s remarkably diverse output as a multifaceted whole.”

But is there enough for visitors to really understand? Koons defies interpretation—doesn’t he? Or does he?

Is it good art? Is it bad art? Are these oversize baubles, or are they more?

Blake Gopnik and Christian Viveros-Fauné decide to get to the bottom of an artist who is either deeply shallow or (in a good way) one for the history books.