Editorial: Volume 34 no 3 January – February 2020
Jeff Koons is not a name to toy with. When he was asked to create a memorial to the victims of terrorism in Paris one may assume the French authorities had lost their minds asking an aesthetic dedicated to Disneyfying the cities of America, to suddenly find the soulfulness of tragedy within humanity and make it tangible. Perhaps they mistook Koons for an artist. One never knows how these committees think – if they go further than ‘who’s got a name?’
The initial response was so hostile from those outside the committee room that, though commissioned in 2016, his suggestion was less than universally appreciated. One thing we are sure of, but the French had to learn, is that Koons lacks imagination. They took three years to bring his work into bloom.
When it did bloom, the tulips in a hand, it was as we always knew it would be, a statement of flower power 40 years too late, and irrelevant to the battle against religious terrorism now facing the West, though, if history repeats itself as a joke, and if this present war is a ridicule of the Crusades which were the most barbarous and vile series of religious wars in the last thousand years, then Koons’ laughability is, at least, historically nuanced.
But lets not get too philosophical after all, Koons never has.
Let’s go back to France and the French and wonder at this aesthetically great country so often part of the avant garde, being taken in by American advertising. We can accept the UK would be suckered as there is no language barrier between us and the USA and our hunger to make money has found the USA our greatest ally. Capitalists, like second rate artists, always stick together. If artists leave the herd they are likely to be picked off by the hunting thinkers, philosophers New Art Examiner critics and aesthetically cultured of the world.
Koons’ tulips were ripped into by the French. Philosopher Yves Michaud described the sculpture as “11 coloured anuses mounted on stems.” Twitter suggested Parisians will now think that tulips are giant coloured marshmallows. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that it is a “magnificent symbol of freedom and friendship.” Somehow, I cannot see this being a symbol of France the way the French Statue of Liberty has become the symbol of America.
But then it was never meant to be. This ham-fisted monument to kitsch culture was to commemorate the murdered, and how the French could imagine the sugar-puff sculptures of Koons could ever rise to that challenge is baffling. Thankfully the best aesthetic thinkers France has, see the fraud, know it and say it.