Everyone has seen it, and you know exactly what it is, its so transparent in form, yet so evanescent. It haunts the art world like a specter of the coming collapse. Imagine if you will a bombed out and smoldering post-apocalyptic wasteland, where our modern world has finally met its end, and there is on the bleak and foggy horizon, a tall balloon dog among the ruins. It gapes out of the landscape like a giant festering out of place distraction. You cant look away at this seamless and shiny monstrosity. Is it not fitting that Koons is the near perfect artist for our very own end of days?
Koons embodies everything that people love to make fun of in the art world: He sells elaborately staged installations to the clueless ultra-rich, usually at the behest of their art advisors, seeing as how this type of work seems to be perennially “in season”. He was a wall street bugman before realizing art is a hot business. Everything is assembled in the Koons “art factory”, reminiscent of that one scene from The Holy Mountain. Of course Jodorowsky was cynically satirizing the 60s art world led by Andy Warhol, but Koons has the business sense of Warhol times ten, and minus the artistic vision. Koons famously does not even touch his “art” (or rather anti-art) but has a whole army of artists and artisans to render his ghastly works using a variety of digital and industrial techniques.
So what is the purpose of “Blue Balloon Dog” and other installations concocted by Koons? First i shall go out on a limb and say that i quite admire Koons, albeit in a villainous way. I don’t immediately take to making fun of His works as most people do, because, at least in a negative sens,e His works have profound meaning and are revelatory in a variety of ways.
This is a very bold claim i know, but let us remember Heidegger’s Origins of the Work of Art, specifically the purpose of art being Aletheia, or truth-revealing, to disclose or make unconcealed. Art does this by revealing the truth of a particular society and context to Heidegger, art points the way towards a truth of something, the way a Greek temple unites the various parts of a culture on the same aesthetic work. This is of course a very quick and dirty summary. (For more info on one of Heidegger’s most influential works, i have written more extensively on it elsewhere.).
Koons displays represents the absolute gutter of Kitschy Americana in all of its tacky forms; Trinkets and baubles you would find in a route 66 gas station are enlarged and put on display for the nihilistic art world to consume. Koons is a genius in that he is not a great artist, but a great pastiche of a modern artist, essentially preforming a market-driven and self-aware form of META ART. To be perfectly blunt, Koons is the anti-Warhol, for he does not wish to warn people of modern society by enlarging and reifying common objects in art, elevating them into an aesthetic sensibility, quite the contrary; Koons is embracing trash-world for its own sake, minus any idealism or romanticism about exposing the flaws of consumer society. Of course he does do this in a cynical way, as if to laugh at the art world snobs and the beleaguered normies who ponder upon such transparent works of meaninglessness. In fact he even has a series of staged photos depicting himself as some sort of art-God, making a mockery of the avant-garde, complete with a picture of him in front of school children that has chalkboard messages such as “exploit the masses”, and one that praises all that is banal. Koons is a product of the 80s “greed is good” mentality, and through the disgusting and putrefying surface-film of his swampy kitsch lies the heart of modern anti-culture in art.
Koons is the apex utilitarian realist of art, using it as merely a vehicle to scam billionaires out of their precious dollars. He is much too cynical to “critique” the current worlding of globalized western “culture”, like those other pretentious artists trying to replicate the greats. No there is not an ounce of critique on Koons, rather he swims inside the decaying nectar of modern culture, and through his swimming we see the waterfall of haunting and cruel revelation.
Koons is ironically in line with Heidegger’s notion of art revealing the truth of a thing, and the world of a culture. For many years, Marxists, accelerationists, reactionaries, weird post-humanists, and Baudrillardian media-studies types have been pounding the collective sand over one question: If (and when) “capitalism” as we know it, be it a discourse, technology, aspect of nature, or something in between all three, will reach “self-awareness”. Even certain social scientists are trying to find a quantifiable way to articulate capital reaching a point of finally break off and become autonomous. But as usual, Art and Philosophy runs circles around the sciences and social sciences. Ahead of it all stands the anti-art world of art, to which Koons is its capitalist proselytizer. Koons’ art does not look at autonomous hyper-capitalism as a possibility, but rather as a persistent fact of modern life. We love and feel nostalgic over garbage, so our art reflects this mass produced and cheaply made garbage. How does Koons do this?
The simplest articulation of Autonomous capital in Koons’ “works” comes from his dastardly self-awareness about their purpose. Art is no longer sacred, art does not lead to God or Beauty or “love” or any of that per-cynical stuff. Art is simply a commodity now, nothing more and nothing less. You have endless gallery and art shows filled with neo-idealist clap trap, which usually boils down to millennial “artists” mimicking their influences like Jean-Michel Basquiat by writing “woke” phrases on giant color-field wall canvases. You have that, and right next to it you have the terroristic and highly processed works of Koons, celebrating in a mocking fashion all that the art world pays lip service to hating. Furthermore, Koons not only repackages the banes of the art world (Capitalism, Americana, “Kitsch”, etc.) into modern art, but makes millions of dollars off of selling these installations and being a high competitor in the contemporary art scene! surreal and tragicomic as his works are, including how they are made, it is undeniable Koons is provocative. Capital all and all has thoroughly run amok of human control, and Koons exposes why that is the case.