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

Our critics view irresistible masterpieces of "artistic pollution."

Our critics take a look at “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,” the most expensive show ever at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, a blockbuster, crowd-pleaser. Koons has a habit of splitting critical reactions right down the middle: You love him or you hate him. Wouldn’t you know it, Gopnik and Viveros-Fauné are as split as could be. Gopnik thinks that Koons is one of the great artists of our times, making complex work that speaks or our era’s complexities. Koons, he feels, breaks down all the normal codes that we use to sort out the world.

Viveros-Fauné sees Koons as a born sellout, catering to the values of the oligarchical one percent. Koons once worked for Wall Street, and for Viveros-Fauné, he still does.

Blake Gopnik: I think he profoundly misreads all the codes of the culture. I think he’s properly fucked up in the way great artists are. Imagine someone who can’t tell the difference between porn and romance?….Scott Rothkopf, the [Whitney] curator, points how completely messed up it is to imagine [a Koons] in a millionaire’s tasteful living room: A Mies van der Rohe sofa, a Breuer table, and Michael and Bubbles . . . It’s an amazing act of pollution.

Christian Viveros-Fauné: This is stainless steel cast hot air, baubles for the period we’re living in. There is no judgment in these works. This is just ugly kitsch of the positional variety . . . perfect examples of . . . almost Rococo vapidity.

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