Tag: Jeff Koons

Public Art


Rome    Fountain of the Four Rivers     Bernini

When it comes to public art you would be hard pressed to beat Bernini’s masterpiece The Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona…….well maybe the Trevi Fountain in the same city. Public art or art in public spaces is freed from the confines of the gallery and adorns our cities like jewels in a crown or at the very least gigantic garden gnomes decorating our  financial and cultural institutions. As I am in the middle of planning our next escape I was going through some old photos and came up with a theme. Here are a few examples taken from some our travels over the years.




Bilbao    Spider     Louise Bourgeois


Bilbao   Puppy   Jeff Koons



Washington DC


Washington  Typewriter Eraser Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen



Washington   Brushstroke  Roy Lichtenstein

If you ever find yourself in Washington and are looking for a place to eat, I highly recommend the food-court at the National Museum of the American Indian (unfortunate name but really good food).


Washington    Monumental Head Giacometti     Balzac Rodin





Chicago    Flamingo    Calder


Chicago    Untitled     Picasso


Chicago  Four Seasons  Chagall

Between the architecture and all the public art in Chicago you don’t even have to step foot inside an art gallery to see some of the biggest names in Art History. I would say, right up there with Bernini’s fountain would have to be Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate referred to as ‘the Bean’ by locals. I’ve never seen an artwork have such universal appeal. Both young and old are drawn to it. The minute you see it you automatically start walking towards it. It is like a magnet.


Chicago    Cloudgate   Anish Kapoor



rodin 2

Cleveland    The Thinker     Rodin

Not all public art has it easy. Cleveland’s Thinker had a bomb placed under it. Read more here Slashed, Smashed and Blowed up: Blowed up Real Good. There’s tons more I didn’t include, but I recommend the next time you’re out and about take a look around you might be surprised what you encounter.



Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball paintings at Gagosian

jk rubens

So…. the thing is….umm……in a word….. pointless.

One of my favourite things to do in this world is making mixtapes. I love to spend hours selecting the right songs, more importantly spending hours deciding the right sequence to put them in. A good mixtape should have a wide variety of genres with some hard to find gems along with unexpected favourites. If the painting choices currently on display at the Gagosian gallery in New York are any indication; Jeff Koons just made a pretty crappy mixed tape.

jk elgreco.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love El Greco’s View of Toledo and Rubens’ Tiger Hunt and the Turner etc.. but the versions I love have the right scale and don’t have a shiny blue ball in the middle of them.Jeff’s mixtape is all bad covers that drain the life from the originals. I kind of get why Mr. Koons decided to pursue this body of work as a logical extension of his gazing ball sculptures, but that doesn’t make it good. I like the Gazing Ball statues. The white and the blue play very nicely together.

k gazing ball

The blue here clashes with most of the paintings (with a few exceptions), but the bigger problem is the ‘why’? What are the viewers meant to get out of this? Are these solely meant for rich buyers who can’t have the real Rembrandt self-portrait or Van Gogh Wheat Field but still want to drop a ludicrous amount of money on a painstakingly recreated copy with a famous name attached to it?

jk picasso

While looking at them I felt sorry for the team of underpaid factory workers whose job it was to make them. I imagined it was like the equivalent of stripping to put yourself through college. Maybe I’m missing something, I can see myself in these paintings… literally, you’re right there reflected in the blue ball. Is that it, the Jeff Koons running gag about being able to see yourself in his artwork,although you’ll never be able to afford them? Simultaneously in and out.

jk manet

Or are the blue balls the naked girl at the picnic? Meant to shock and stand out. Who knows or more importantly who cares? I think Jeff should stick to sculpture, it’s what he’s good at and leave the mixtapes alone.

Jeff Koons Retrospective

k mjb

Michael Jackson with Bubbles 1988

People really love to hate Jeff Koons; artists especially. The laundry list of criticisms levied against him are vast and plenty. The fact that he doesn’t  physically make any of his own artworks and they are actually  the factory fabrications of a team of nameless makers seems to rub some people the wrong way.  Marcel Duchamp started that avalanche  a century ago and Warhol had no trouble cashing the cheques as a result of it. One major difference between Koons and the elder statesmen of art is that both Duchamp and Warhol had the technical skill to execute anything that they put their name to. With Jeff Koons it’s not so apparent, but Koons’ power stems from what Duchamp so eloquently pointed out forever ago, is that the idea is where the art lies and the object is just the conduit in which it is communicated. Who cares where the object came from as long as an artist infuses it with their own artistic conception?

New Hoover Celebrity III’s, 1980

New Hoover Celebrity III’s, 1980

So what exactly is Jeff’s conception? This is probably the other major sticking point for his critics. Some people think he doesn’t have one. He is accused of creating super polished art-bling for the super rich. It has no worth except for what it’s worth. Is this where Jeff’s genius lies? Like Warhol said “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Jeff Koons’ career trajectory has been cool and very calculated and Jeff is a very clever boy who knew to steal from the best. Take a look at his early vacuum pieces. One part Duchamp one part Dan Flavin and voilà instant art that has an existing built in conception. The vacuum pieces work now more from an 80’s artifact curiosity factor than a neo-dadist sensibility.

One Ball Total Equilibrium (detail) 1985

One Ball Total Equilibrium (detail) 1985

Neo-dadist art eventually morphed and transitioned into Pop art and that is where Koons found his true calling. Jeff Koons is a pop artist perfectionist with the budget of a Hollywood studio. In the beginning he didn’t always have the resources he possess today. He did this by investing in himself. He took all his money and put it into the fabrication of his ideas, sometimes selling them at a loss to help perpetuate his brand. Employing scientists to help you figure out how to make a Dr. J basketball eternally float suspended in time doesn’t come cheap. Casting an inflatable dingy in bronze also doesn’t come cheap; irony costs. Is this where Jeff Koons brilliance lies?

Ushering in Banality 1988

Ushering in Banality 1988

In the late 80’s Jeff Koons hit his stride. He became an expert anthropologist/alchemist, mining the cultural landscape for gold. He could turn led into a precious metal. He could turn the banal into candy and intrigue. He played with materials and surface with astonishing results. His rabbit from this time was an artistic revelation. Koons worked in steel, wood, porcelain and fabrication. His work was a celebration and easy fun.

Play Doh 2014

Play Doh 2014

Jeff Koons throughout his career has channeled his inner child. With works like Play Doh and Balloon Dog playfulness is on display in a monumental way. The facts they are in themselves very grown-up feats of engineering (Play Doh took 10 years to figure out) is invisible. They are made to be loved and when it comes to his Balloon Dogs mission accomplished. In my opinion the Balloon dogs are his most successful works. They work on a conceptual and aesthetic level. In their presence you are impressed by their scale and tickled by their polish. On the flip-side, in every way his sculptures succeed, his paintings fail miserably.

Seal Walrus Chairs 2003

Seal Walrus Chairs 2003

His paintings are meticulous recreations of bad Photoshop collages. When I look at them I just feel sorry for the poor painters who had to waste countless hours of their lives creating unneeded forgettable images. The best of Jeff’s art works because he willed it into existence. The fact that Seal Walrus Chairs exists in itself is ridiculous. Creating painted bronze casts of pool toys trapped in a stack of plastic deck chairs defies all common sense and that is why it works. There is an implied narrative there that none of his paintings exhibit.

Balloon Venus 2013

Balloon Venus 2013

Metallic Venus 2010

Metallic Venus 2010

Popeye 2009

Popeye 2009

The bulk of the metallic sculptures are exercises in execution but ultimately don’t come close to a Rabbit or Balloon Dog. There’s a specificity to them that the stronger work isn’t chained to. It could be any balloon dog among millions as opposed to one Popeye, Hulk or what have you. Inflatables are meant to be inconsequential and not revered as monuments.

Balloon Dog (Yellow) 1994-2000

Balloon Dog (Yellow) 1994-2000

The Whitney has done a good job surveying an international art star’s evolution and success. They have included the good, bad and ugly (Made in Heaven: Koons’ misstep into sex and images). I was looking forward to this show and was not disappointed.  I left wondering: is Jeff Koons a genius? On the one hand, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for the Warhol blueprint ( who in my mind is a genius). On the other hand these ridiculous monuments to the inconsequential were willed into existence by Koons’ creativity and tenaciousness.  Are these important art objects or hyper expensive lawn ornaments for the uber-rich?

Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) 2013

Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) 2013

Why not go to the Whitney and decide for yourself? The Jeff Koons Retrospective is on until Oct 19th.

1 Year Anniversary

Jeff Koons Party Hat 1997

Jeff Koons Party Hat 1997

Holditnow turns 1 today! Wow that went by fast. It started out as whim on a lazy afternoon and quickly turned into an addiction. I spread my net pretty wide trying to tackle all of Pop Culture and am slowly figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Turns out; you guys like it when I talk about Art and Movies a lot more than when I speak and share about Television and Music. I’m a hopeless TV addict so they’ll keep coming. I was also a DJ in a past life (granted not a very good one) so I’ll keep chipping away with mixes like this Disco to Disco.

Pathetic Fallacy 2012

Pathetic Fallacy 2012

Thanks for letting me share my artwork. My First Tablet Painting struck a chord and inspired me to keep working in this vein. Over the past year this work has gotten a lot of positive attention and is now represented by two galleries in Toronto. Art is my favourite thing to talk about/share and my very first post was an early digital work: Baconstein.

Seeing is Believing  2008

Seeing is Believing 2008

Definitely a highlight of this past year was being Freshly Pressed. The overwhelming surge of traffic for a new blogger is definitely a rush. I Want to Believe was a love letter to a childhood obsession. Thanks to all who stopped by and a big shout out to the ones that stayed. Other posts you guys liked include: Secret Gem, Picasso Vs Van Gogh, Delicatessen Review and World in My Eyes: Chicago.

Some of my personal favourites include: Creature From the Black Lagoon and Them! Review, The King and the Pauper, The Strange and Wondrous Story of The KLF and What’ so funny about peace, love and an inflatable Rabbit?

crop2Since this is a special anniversary post; I’m going to introduce a new category: Food. If anything, this might turn into a once a year thing. There are so many great food blogs out there that I know when I’m in way over my head. But Toronto is such a wonderful place to live with so many great places to eat I’d be remiss in not adding one more log on the fire. Over the last year, a friend and myself have been eating at a new place in the city every week and here are a few recommendations.

Best Ramen: Kenzo 

Don’t be confused, this is the North York restaurant close to Steeles. The downtown ones are good but this one is outa sight.

Best Meat on a Bun: Porchetta and Co

One word: crackling.

Best Milkshake: Holy Chuck

The Nutella and salted caramel will haunt you for days.

Best Taco: La Carnita

Come for the In cod we trust fish taco, stay for the key lime pie on a stick.

Best Cornbread: Southern Accent

Funky staple in Mirvish Village.

Best Schnitzel: Cafe Polonez

They serve a great platter of Polish comfort food.

Best Counter: The Stockyards

Last time we were there, we sat beside one of the Kids in the Hall.

Best Meatball: 7 numbers

Years later and people are still lined up out the door.

Thanks again for a great year.


What’s so Funny about Peace, Love and an Inflatable Rabbit?

Jeff Koons Rabbit 1986

Art can feel like a very serious affair sometimes. We have built austere institutions in every major city to exalt its importance. Billions of dollars are spent annually trying to acquire its cultural cache. Art represents taste, prestige and social class. So, if an art object can symbolize status in society, what does a multimillion dollar inflatable rabbit cast in stainless steel say about society?

The bunny in question would be Jeff KoonsRabbit from 1986. Art historians and critics have argued about the validity of Koons’ work since its inception. It has been dismissed as sensationalist kitsch or praised as postmodern pop that holds a mirror up to society’s guilty pleasures and vacuous need for consumption. However you view the importance of it in the canon of western art, there is a certain pleasure of seeing yourself reflected on the highly polished surface of a multimillion dollar inflatable rabbit cast in stainless steel. The absurdity of it is funny.

What’s funny doing in the serious world of art? Humour has existed in art from its conception, but the latter half of the twentieth century saw the advent of artist as part-time comedian.  In the 1960’s the seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists was replaced by the whimsy of the Pop artists. The greatest and possibly the funniest of them all would be Andy Warhol. Along with his depictions of car crashes, electric chairs and consumerism, Andy Warhol had a funny bone. In the 1970’s Andy had a book deal to write The Philosophy of Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again chronicling his personal views on art and life. He had an assistant write it for him. During a book signing; fans were asking him specific questions that Andy was unable to answer. Andy hadn’t bothered to read the book and had no idea what his own personal philosophy was! That’s funny.

Funny has become more of the norm in twenty-first century art as illustrated by the recent Maurizio Cattelan retrospective at the Guggenheim. His work is truly absurd: an old woman in a fridge, a squirrel committing suicide in a miniature replica of his childhood kitchen and the Pope being struck by a meteorite all cut deep into societal norms. He has been labeled ‘L’Enfant terrible’ of the art world with many critics immune to his charms. For his final act of absurdity (he has said he is retiring) he suspended all his artworks from cables down the center of the Guggenheim’s rotunda leaving all the galleries empty. It was an engaging way to view the work. Pieces floated in and out of your periphery creating unexpected associations. The title of the show was all. Everything was there, including the funny.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen my own reflection in Jeff Koons’ Rabbit at the Pop Life exhibit, walked into a room full of floating silver pillows at The Warhol Museum and made the spiral hike up the Guggenheim to take it all in. All these experiences cemented in me the belief that not only is art meant for you to think about and re-exam  the world we live in but sometimes it’s there just to make you smile.