Jeff Koons is (whether you like it or not) one of the most influencial contemporary artists in the world. He’s responsible for some of the most recognised pieces in recent times and reaction to his work is more often than not extreme.
So, when I heard he was speaking once and only once in the UK last Thursday about his new show at The Serpentine that opened the same week, (his first UK solo show at a major public gallery) I had to be there.
I’m not at all qualified enough to critique his art, concepts or output but what I can say is that this was no ordinary talk. Despite the incredible heat, he took to the stage in a pristine suit and tie, and looked every bit as polished as you might expect.
We were then treated to a tour through his current Popeye Series, a short background to his upbringing and a little Q&A. His rise to art fame has been well documented and after studying painting, he worked on Wall St. to help pay his way before finding fame in the 80s with his odd, conceptual sculptures.
To try and sum up what he explained to us would be a very tough task indeed as his work is so intensely personal and referenced that I feel as though I could only do him an injustice. His public speaking was flawless and almost hypnotic, reeling off explanation after explaination of why his work looked, felt and was made the way it was. When explaining how he goes about making his work his quick riposte was simply “If you have a vision, creation is easy”, and he undoubtedly has that. Almost every piece he explained was made almost entirely from individual references to past masters and despite the obvious readymade comparisons to Marcel Duchamp there were some less immediate ones like HC Westermann and Manet.
Stutter-free and flawless throughout, Koons described Art as giving a “platform to expand or disempower, like [Popeye’s] Spinach” and there’s no doubt which one he is pursuing. Either way though you feel that his seminal work is still to come, leaving the audience with the poignant “I would like to do something as I don’t think I’ve done anything yet” – a bold statement indeed for someone who seems to have achieved so much.
The privilidge of having an exhibition of this scale, completely free of charge in one of London’s most beautiful spaces is an opportunity you should not pass up.