Jeff Koons’s NFT Artist Son Speaks Out on Dad’s Divorce, New York Gets Hip New Gallery Hood, and More Art-World Gossip
Plus, what "Game of Thrones" co-stars were out in Ridgewood, Queens? And scenester-curator Brooke Wise gives us a look into her life.
Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Last week, Jeff Koons announced the inevitable: his own NFT project, which, of course, involves launching some of his sculptures to the moon.
A little more quietly, Koons’s 29-year-old son, Ludwig, announced an NFT project of his own: a series called Koonimals that uses his father’s iconic imagery of balloon dogs, flower bouquets, and the like.
“I’ve always been very curious, and NFTs immediately seemed like an appealing challenge to devote myself to,” Koons Jr. told Wet Paint.
Ludwig is the son of Koons and former muse Ilona Staller, better known as the Italian porn star Cicciolina. You’ll remember the pair best from one of Koons’s most infamous series, the “Made In Heaven” works, which included lurid depictions of them having sex.
Staller, who later went into politics (it’s all very Italian) was married to Koons from 1991 through 1994, when she left the US to go to her native country with two-year-old Ludwig, despite a court order from New York State saying he should stay in his father’s care.
“At first I didn’t understand that I was contested by my parents. I only realized it a few years later,” Ludwig told Wet Paint. “Growing up, however, I managed to build my own independent relationship with both of them.”
After several million dollars in legal fees and a decade of fighting, the father and son now connect, but only occasionally, Jeff told us.
“It’s a devastating experience,” Koons Sr. said of the custody battle at a breakfast following the sale of his latest BMW art car to benefit the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (The benefit amounted to about $620,000.) Koons has been working for causes like these ever since the custody battle.
“But I decided to move forward and try to help others.”
He added that while he and Ludwig are on speaking terms, he feels his son may have been “brainwashed.” Ludwig, it seems, feels otherwise.
“Poor man,” he said of his dad. “Between business trips, jet lag, and work commitments, he slept little, but despite this he always made me feel his presence. I don’t know how the distance has affected our relationship. But I can say that I was still surrounded by his love. I leave the famous artist to his audience. For me, he was just my superman.”
Like his dad, Ludwig is doing some kind of charity work. Proceeds from the Koonimals will go towards the establishment of Museo del Metaverso.
Ludwig, you’ll remember, is the reason, according to Koons family lore, that dad made his Play-Doh (1994–2014) sculpture, first presented at his Whitney retrospective.
Ludwig, Jeff said in an interview, made a Play-Doh mound and showed it to dad. “He was so proud!” Jeff told Christie’s auction house as it prepared to sell off an edition in 2018. The work brought in $22.8 million.
Koonimals is humming along. Its Discord page boasts several thousand users, 327 owners of Koonimals, and around 800 NFTs currently available on the Ethereum blockchain.
Ludwig’s creations may draw generously from his father’s high-gloss, cartoonish, stainless steel, and inflatable aesthetic, but look a little closer and there’s some unique expression in there. Ludwig’s characters go a little darker: many of their bodies are skeletons, and Jeff’s famously pricey silver Rabbit, whose indignant posture seemed somehow empowering, is dwarfed by a fox-like creature in Ludwig’s version.
“I’m honest: I didn’t expect so much interest in me,” Ludwig told Wet Paint. “I know my surname certainly played an important role in this. But the world of art is magical and I’m happy.”
NO SLEEP ‘TIL NOHO
Every few years, a new New York neighborhood becomes an art hub. In the ’50s, artists lived in Greenwich Village, moved south into Coenties Slip in the ’60s, rolled into the Cast Iron district (and into the rest of SoHo) through the ’70s, and went over to Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg, in the ’80s. Then, there was a bit of a blur, the art world became the art industry, and it was all about galleries in Chelsea, then the Lower East Side, but always the everlasting 57th Street (where the old guard lives).
Most recently, it’s been Tribeca, but if you can believe it, it’s coming on three years since it became hip. (The pandemic sure makes time move weirdly, doesn’t it?)
So what’s next? The Bowery, of course. Think about it! Adam Lindemann‘s got an extension of Venus Over Manhattan on Great Jones Street, where he’s showing young artists; Company Gallery, which works with up-and-comers like Jonathan Lyndon Chase, hauled north for Elizabeth and Broome; and Wet Paint has it on good authority that three more galleries are entering the Bowery fray: Magenta Plains, Bodega, and Helena Anrather, each with plans to open galleries in the neighborhood.
“The Bowery is a vital artery at the intersection of so many key neighborhoods and art ecosystems,” art dealer Helena Anrather told Wet Paint.
Her space at 132 Bowery opens with a solo show by Julia Wachtel, who used to show with Mary Boone, making the latter-day Pictures generation artist a real get. Inside, the gallery boasts a 20-foot window facing the Bowery, plus 2,500 square feet of space.
“We sought a space that artists want to respond to,” Anrather said.
Bodega, meanwhile, is changing its name—now it’s Derosia, and it’ll be at 197 Grand Street.
“It’s above Ferrara Bakery, and the space smells like cannoli,” co-owner Elyse Derosia said. “It’s magical!”
The area, as Anna Furney, a partner with Lindemann, told Artnet News a few weeks ago, is “both a bit bourgeois and at the same time gritty.” And of course, it’s got tons going on: Basquiat’s studio was on Great Jones, Karma, Rachel Uffner, and Zürcher Gallery are stones’ throws away, and the major anchor is the New Museum. It’s address? Right on the Bowery. If trends indicate anything, keep an eye on the area.
Arts-forward coworking space Neuehouse is opening a new location in Venice Beach, California … Abstract painter Manuel Mathieu will show with Pilar Corrias … Gagosian is on a hiring spree, based on its crowded employment opportunity page … The beloved Brooklyn club and bar Rash caught on fire this past weekend, with no deaths on the premises but several injured requiring hospitalization—here’s a link to donate to their GoFundMe … Artist Alok Vaid-Menon is set to kick off a lecture series for kids about gender nonconformity at Performance Space New York … Zachary Kaplan has stepped down from his role as director of Rhizome to work at the Getty Foundation as public programming head … JDJ Tribeca has opened a new show by Bea Scaccia, head painter for Marilyn Minter, and one of Jeff Koons’s top former studio assistants …
Marina Abramović and Klaus Biesenbach grinning for the ‘gram in Berlin *** Marianne Boesky, Rashid Johnson, Zoe Buckman, Sophia Cohen, Cynthia Rowley, Prabal Gurung, Fab 5 Freddy, and Nicole Ari Parker at the Art Production Fund‘s glitzy spring gala honoring Sanford Biggers, where lychee martinis were served from an ice luge and each guest received a personalized APF letterman jacket *** Kandis Williams, Nicelle Beauchene, Gray Wielebinski, Mills Moràn, and Ebony L. Haynes dining late at Lucien, while Succession star Nick Braun waited for a table *** Eric Andre at the Ata Kak concert in Los Angeles *** Mac DeMarco dining at Fanelli’s *** The ever-trendy Green River Project, which designed some of your favorite spots (like the Bode store and Desert Vintage) opened its own bar called the River in partnership with Dr. Clark’s—Nate Lowman, Kaitlin Phillips, and Ryan McGinley all showed up for its soft opening *** Game of Thrones co-stars Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage at Ridgewood venue Rockwood *** A certain Dimes employee taking to Twitter to call out a certain type patron who doesn’t tip—c’mon guys, the excuse that you’re European doesn’t cut it ***
WET PAINT IN THE WILD
My good friend Brooke Wise leads the bicoastal lifestyle I aspire to.
The curator is as likely to be found late night at Clandestino as she is dining under the sun at Los Angeles art-world hotspot Little Doms in Los Feliz, and its honestly hard to keep track of her comings-and-goings.
One recent week, I gave her a ring to hear what was new, and I thought to myself, is this not the very function of Wet Paint in the Wild? I TaskRabbit‘d her a disposable camera and the rest is herstory.
WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE
Was it something I said? Maybe I’m asking the wrong crowd, but last week’s question—what art dealer is the best at video games—didn’t get much out of you.
One anonymous source volunteered Lily Snyder, a director at Eric Firestone who, in fact, does manage her own Twitch channel. London-based dealer Omer Tiroche nominated himself, and another anonymous New York-based dealer named Galerie Eva Presenhuber director Jill McLennon an avid gamer.
Let’s try again, My question for you is: What’s the worst rookie mistake to make at the Venice Biennale? Let me know at [email protected].
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