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Jeff Koons at the Whitney

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Among the highlights of the Whitney Museum's Jeff Koons retrospective, Play-Doh -- a "ten-foot-tall, metastasized childhood nightmare in painted aluminum that has taken Koons two decades to realize, in all its luridly DayGlo, dog-poop creepiness..."


THINK YOU'VE SEEN it all before? If we're talking about Jeff Koons, you haven't.

Anyone who cares about contemporary art and is in New York City should certainly visit the Whitney Museum's current Jeff Koons retrospective. I went with low expectations, thinking I'd seen it all before -- having known Jeff and his work since 1983, when I included a vacuum cleaner work in a Baskerville+Watson gallery group show, and having seen most, if not all, of his New York City solo shows over the past three decades. But I'm delighted to report that there is a lot to learn and enjoy in this retrospective. In point of fact, the show is a tour de force--capturing the spirit of a generation, both its glorious excesses and its maddeningly self-involved melancholia.

Stunningly installed and selected by curator Scott Rothkopf, the Koons exhibition is one of the finest retrospectives to hit New York in decades. And it's a superb swan song for the Whitney Museum's long-time flagship site on Madison Avenue. In fact, that note of finality lends the Koons show an inescapable aura of melancholy. For me, the Whitney has always been the museum in New York to unfailingly and unflaggingly embrace new artists and new ideas before other institutions. Back in the early 1980s, when I was a 24-year old, upstart art dealer, it was the Whitney curators (the late, great Richard Marshall, along with Lisa Phillips and Richard Armstrong) who regularly attended the shows my staff and I created for then-emerging artists like Carroll Dunham, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince--attendance that would result in the first institutional support for these artists.

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The Jeff Koons retrospective works on so many emotional and intellectual levels, because it echoes the pop culture obsessions and social perversions of late-20th-century life-- from Play-Doh, the ten-foot-tall, metastasized childhood nightmare in painted aluminum that has taken Koons two decades to realize, in all its luridly DayGlo, dog-poop creepiness, to the flat-out gloriousness of the painted porcelains, stainless steel castings, tanks of floating basketballs, and encased household appliances-- all of which is seductively installed and lit.

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It's a show that affords a suitably expansive vision of Koons's work and also serves as a tribute to the Whitney's hard-to-overestimate importance as a champion of living American artists. Run, don't walk. You have only until October 19th.

Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Organized by Scott Rothkopf, Nancy and Steve Crown Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs, Whitney Museum.
On view now through October 19th

The Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
New York, NY 10021
T. 212.570.3600

The Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney "affords a suitably expansive vision of Koons's work and also serves as a tribute to the Whitney's hard-to-overestimate importance in championing living American artists..."


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