John Powers was a 21-year-old art student when Jeff Koons hired him as an assistant in 1995. Despite Powers' exceptionally "careful eye and steady hand," a work was destroyed under his watch, and he ended up quitting. In a surreal confessional essay published this past weekend in the New York Times Magazine, Powers recounts the sequence of events surrounding "Cracked Egg"s fall. "I Was Jeff Koons's Studio Serf," the headline dramatically states.
But the essay itself is less clear-cut. What could be an indictment of the notorious trend of name brand artists signing off on works carried out by assistants more capable than them (see: Damien Hirst, Dale Chihuly), is tempered with descriptions of Koons as a forgiving boss, and Powers as an uninspired art student.
In fact, inspiration doesn't figure too high in any part of the story. Powers' challenge on the egg was a simple matter of "paint by numbers," he writes. Later, numbers become the story's kickers: as Koons's assistant, Powers earned a cool $14 an hour. "Cracked Egg," which Powers began recreating after its destruction, eventually sold for a whopping $501,933.
Since the article was published, readers, Tweeters and bloggers have thrown in their two cents on the half a million dollar egg. Where does this story fit into the tradition of the great masters and their nameless assistants? We've collected the snappiest judgments so far, from Twitter, NYT comments, and the blogosphere.
Check out some reactions to "I Was Jeff Koons' Studio Serf" below: