A shiny poem for Jeff Koons -- assembled from his Whitney reviews


The Jeff Koons retrospective has opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and it is filled with BIG SHINY THINGS and LOTS OF COLOR. But if there’s something that contains even more color, it’s been all of the reviews of the show.

In fact, the reviews are so good — bursting with evocative turn of phrase, political metaphor and references to lady parts — that they’ve inspired me to make a poem.

Combing write-ups by Roberta Smith in the New York Times, Jerry Saltz in New York Magazine, Jason Farago in the Guardian, Andrew Russeth in Gallerist, Ben Davis in Artnet, Thomas Micchelli in Hyperallergic and Paddy Johnson in Art F City, I’ve chosen all the best, most wondrous phrases and produced what I believe, to be a truly epic work of poetry.


Stand aside, Chaucer and William Burroughs. Welcome to the world of cut-up Koons criticism. Each line is linked to its source, in case you’re wondering who referred to crystal meth and who said “psychedelic poop.”

Jeff Koons has won.
The reigning artist-king
its proud court jester
the poster child for art-world excess
a bland Mitt Romney Teletubby
a mysterious force of nature
the perma-smiling master of high art and low
as freakish as Andy Warhol:
complicated, bizarre, thrilling, alien,
benevolent, terrifying, goofy

Is his factory of art makers really that different from Buzzfeed?

Gleaming in the ghost-light of fluorescent tubes,
shiny new Hoovers in pristine, sealed acrylic cases
anthropomorphized and fetishized,
odes to domesticity, hygiene and American assembly lines,
rendering consumerism into something deeply libidinous.
Hyper-anal-retentive Pop collages
peppered with cartoon creatures and vulvas
miraculous constructions in which basketballs float
in minutely calibrated salt water

Shellacked paintings of flying sandwiches and grinning monkeys,
paint, dessert and psychedelic poop
Something fantastic, something disastrous
They don’t even revile; they merely recede.

Silliness, shininess, filled with flops,
with waxed chest and having anal sex
Buoyant devices that will sink you,
a creepy fecundity suggestive of erupting skin, simmering mud or sewage,
a pietà-inspired homage to the King of Pop
and his favorite monkey,

a ridiculous marble sculpture
depicting a bejeweled and barechested Staller

The perfect Kardashian wedding centerpiece.

Jeff Koons poses next to a pig, grinning
Jeff Koons wears a luxurious bathrobe
Jeff Koons is served cake by half-naked women
Jeff Koons stands in front of a room full of children spelling out the word banality on a chalkboard
His mystifying persona is perhaps his most enduring artwork
He irritates most when he insists he has no desire to irritate.
Only a cynic could see cynicism
in this cosmically, freakishly sincere true believer

He loves childhood, and sex
He wants to be your Norman Rockwell, your life coach and your gym buddy.

The hype has been endless for this.
The oligarchical collectors of our age, we know, do not care
They like their art instantly recognisable
easily graspable
and shiny
Little more than a Gagosian showroom
High-production art that sells like crystal meth
the readymade crossed with greed, money, creepy beauty, and the ugliness of our culture,
reek[ing] of Gilded Age excess, art star hubris
the ever-widening inequality gap

thoughts, however unformed, about who culture is aimed at and how desire is constructed.
That ball is made for you; look in it, and you see yourself.
Join the idolaters and take another selfie
in the distorted reflection of Koons’s mirrored objects


There is a funereal air about this exhibition
The God Hercules, a Belvedere torso, and a pimped-out mailbox,
each with a single blue gazing ball
an amorous Pink Panther
a pig flanked by angels
a London bobby befriending a goofy bear

Bubbles, still affronts and generates an agreeable queasiness.
There’s something truly cruel in his sculptures’ indifference to any audience desire for profundity
Koons himself, smiling too broadly
to see the culture he propitiates collapse around him

Pity his army of studio assistants
“You’re a killer of art, you’re a killer of beauty ... you’re even a killer of laughter.”
His universal shtick is an illusion,
the most potent and inventive artist of this mad, frothy era
That era will come to an end.