Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Kitsch Koons?

"...extreme products of postmodernism include nihilism, kitsch, anything and everything is cheaply imitated..., endlessly repeated and made banal - to the delight of audiences and consumers." (Mestrovic, p27)

I feel this quote relates somewhat to the Jeff Koons piece I have chosen to discuss, Bourgeois Bust - Jeff and Ilona, 1991.

On viewing this sculpture firsthand earlier in the year, my initial thoughts were filled with a sense of recognition - the piece seemed strangely familiar. This white marble bust of Koons and his wife (now ex-wife) Ilona Staller, harks back to the classical sculptures of Ancient Greece and Rome and in this respect Koons appears to narcisistically elevate his relationship to a higher, perhaps unobtainable, godly (or celebrity) level - an ideological portrayal of love. This can be further seen by Staller's garb of stringed pearls and braided hair, drawing similarities to Venus the goddess of love. Another reference to this could be the way the sculpture seems to slice through Staller's arm and torso, suggesting links to the "amputated" arm of 2nd Century BC sculpture, Venus de Milo. This pastiche or reproduction of past ideas/forms gives the viewer a sense of informality and comfortable reassurance - they feel
they can somehow understand or relate to the piece through visual memory.

However, this feeling of comfortableness, can lead to ridicule. Koons work is often described as "kitsch", but he feels the word "discriminates... it basically says some things are more worthy than others" (2008). Unfortunately, (sorry Mr Koons, but...) I personally feel the work is unashamedly tacky, unrepentantly vulgar and yes, kitsch. It suggests to me, the idea of someone surrounding themselves with cheap replicas/souvenirs of classical pieces, to appear of higher class and more culturally aware - a kind of "del boy", "mrs bouquet (bucket)" "keeping up appearances" mentality - even the title "Bourgeois Bust" relates to middle class notions.

I hope Koons work is meant to be approached with tongue firmly fixed in cheek and just because I think the piece is of bad taste, does not mean I do not enjoy its irony (another word which Koons rejects! "A viewer might at first see irony in my work... but I see none at all." Oh, well!)


Koons, J. (2008) Night Talk Interview with Jeff Koons (Part 3). Los Angeles: Bloomberg

Available from: (accessed on 09/11/2011)

Mestrovic, S. (1991) The Coming fin de siecle: an application of Durkheim's sociology to modernity and postmodernism. Routledge
Available from:
result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed 09/11/2011)

Musee du Louvre. Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st Centuries BC). Paris: Musee du Louvre
Available from:
(accessed 09/11/2011)

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2011) Artist Rooms Jeff Koons. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland
Available from: (accessed 09/11/2011)

Tate (2009) Jeff Koons, Bourgeois Bust - Jeff and Ilona 1991. London: Tate Publishing
Available from: (accessed 09/11/2011)

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