Koons’s Monument to the Unknown Readymade

THE DAILY PIC: At the Whitney, a cat in a sock reaches stellar heights.

It’s that time you’ve all (not?) been waiting for: It’s KOONS-O-RAMA time, when I make my weekly visit (and genuflection) to the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney museum in New York.

This is Cat on a Clothesline (Aqua), dated 1994 to 2001, and I think it is the masterpiece of the survey, and the apotheosis of Koons’s career.

I won’t comment here on its place in the long tradition of crucifixion imagery, or on its contribution to the story of the lion in art.

I just want to point out the utterly peculiar place in takes up in the more recent history of the readymade. You’d have to call this piece an adapted-imagined-enlarged readymade.

Its roots are in a real type of found object: the photo of a cat in a sock that is a minor Internet meme. Koons found one that sparked his interest, but then he adapted it to his needs by reshooting it with his own kitten and sock and line. Those photographic roots are shallow, however, because the real source for this object is a cast-plastic toy, such as you might find in one of your nastier dollar stores—but a toy that has only been imagined by Koons, rather than actually purchased or seen. (It’s as though Duchamp imagined up a new kind of urinal—which some have said he did.)

Koons’s piece perfectly duplicates every telltale detail of his (non-existent) found object, down to its lousy casting seams, buttery surfaces, and magic-marker colors. Except, of course, that it does so on a monumental scale, as no normal readymade ever would.

Or maybe this is a commemorative monument to the idea of the readymade itself, prepared for placement in your local museum plaza. The man on a horse gets replaced by the cat in a sock; a tribute to military valor gives way to a tribute to artistic genius.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive


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