When Jeff Koons appeared on Charlie Rose on Monday night to opine on his current retrospective, the Whitney’s largest survey by the work of a single artist, he was given ample opportunity to talk about how he sold gift-wrapping paper door-to-door as a child, how he can give himself more freedom as he gets older (he even compared himself to Pablo Picasso, for a moment), and how, during the planning and installation of the retrospective, the Whitney never said “no” to him. Shocking. And all told with Koons’s characteristic equable demeanor. Of course, Rose then grilled Koons with polite insistence about whether or not he realizes he’s an immensely powerful artist. Here’s the exchange:
Rose: You are huge now. Some people have written, Carl Swanson in New York magazine, that the art establishment doesn’t just ignore the work of the unknown artist but also for the most part the work of the world’s most famous artists, especially Koons, who have become so big and so rich, it no longer seems important to have opinions of them. Do you appreciate that? That you stand above the art establishment?
Koons: Well, I don’t know about that. I mean I always just wanted to participate Charlie. The idea of the avant garde. I wanted to get in there. I wanted to be in there and have a dialogue with Dalí, and Lichtenstein, and Picabia, and Picasso, and just be part of this dialogue. That’s what’s really exciting and rewarding. I don’t think that things are that big.
Rose: You don’t think you’re that big?
Koons: I think I have a platform as an artist.
Rose: You’ve cited the fact that your work has sold for the highest price. You’re excited that you have a retrospective in an entire museum. And that by any artist’s imagination is huge.
Koons: You know, yes. it’s a tremendous platform. At the same time, I want to do something. I really want to do something.
Rose: It’s not about being huge, it’s about, uh, doing something?
Koons: Yeah, yeah. It’s about becoming. You know I really want to make my work, that really can affect the lives of people.
Watch the entire Jeff Koons interview on Charlie Rose:
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