“Moon Phases” by Jeff Koons: art at a lunar price | BR culture stage

Exhibition in Qatar 2021 |  Image: picture alliance / abaca |  Balkis Press/ABACA

Photographing art on the moon? It sounds like party babble about the absurdity of the modern art market, but it’s very true. First it was said that Jeff Koons would shoot 125 of his works on the moon, now we only speak of “a group of sculptures”. But anyone who knows Jeff Koons knows that this artist can pull off a project like this, both logistically and financially. And he will even end up making money from it. And we can learn a lot about how the art market works today.

First art exhibition on the moon

In a short video, Jeff Koons explains what he has in mind. “Moon Phases”: He always wanted to reach everyone. And mankind has always looked up at the moon. With a selection of his life’s work on the moon, he leaves the globe, his art becomes universal.

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An artist for the super rich

Koons is a phenomenon. His works reach the best prices, but he does not seem to be really recognized. Art historian Wolfgang Ullrich disparagingly called him a “super artist” who only focused on the needs of the super-rich. Glamorous pieces for the new rich? That’s at most half the truth. Because Koons is a brilliant marketer. His Whitney retrospective was supported by a few very wealthy collectors, including Kenneth C. Griffin, but it was sponsored by H&M. Koons makes art brutally accessible: big, colorful, expensive. Sometimes with a pinch of yuck, as with his porcelain sculptures which show him having sex with his then wife, the Italian porn actress Cicciolina.

Warhol’s Model Pupil

A second level, a deeper meaning, a double meaning does not exist with Koons (only some of his interpreters make an effort). Inside, he looks like Andy Warhol’s star pupil. His work also celebrated the surface, meaning brands, stars and popularity. What’s the art in there?, many critics have wondered for decades. Today, it is clear that what is fascinating in Warhol’s work is precisely that he posed this question: what makes a work art? Koons has perfected this. His answer: if it is purchased at exorbitant prices. It no longer needs powerful curators or major museum exhibits. Instead, for decades he used the scandal to produce a demonstrably weak art as an artist and yet to be on everyone’s lips. It’s enough for people to talk about him – he doesn’t care how. As long as his things are bought.

After graduating from art school, Jeff Koons worked at MOMA in New York and cared for wealthy patrons. Then it went public. He knows how to raise prices and what to tell collectors to get them to buy something. He uses criticism of the poor contribution of the project to boost his popularity. It’s not art, some would say. But some contemporary – and certainly salable – art doesn’t care about being recognized as art. It’s true, there are much more interesting artists than Koons. But it is equally true that there is no other place that shows how art functions as a market. And that’s quite telling. Because in museums and galleries there are also a lot of expensive second-hand goods. Koons is just more honest than them. And he can also ask for lunar prices.

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