Jeff Koons Ushering in Banality 1988 polychromed wood sculpture
Jeff Koons seems to have said it himself, years ago.*
Many of us have been worrying about the New Museum for some time, including fans who were around at the time of its founding, but I'm not talking about money worries. The institution was founded by Marcia Tucker in 1977, who conceived of it, in a description published on its own web site, as "a place with a scope lying somewhere between grassroots alternative spaces for contemporary art and major museums that show only artists of proven historical value."
The New York Times reports today that in February the zigzag Bowery tower will host a show of work from the collection of Dakis Joannou, one of its own trustees, chosen by Jeff Koons, who is a close friend of the Greek billionnaire. The article tell us that Joannou's collection includes, other than work by Jeff Koons, art by other celebrated artists, and mentions Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Robert Gober, Chris Ofili, Charles Ray and Kiki Smith.
Is this even legal? I mean, this is supposedly a non-profit, and aside from the self-serving aspect, it looks a lot like insider-trading; I see lots of money flying around, and I'm wondering why we shouldn't ask, cui bono?
I don't think Marcia would consider a show of work by established artists, curated by one of the country's most-established artists, and selected exclusively from the collection of one of its own wealthiest, and fully-established trustees to fit the dream - or the reality - which once described the New Museum.
The outrage doesn't stop with the Joannou takeover. The same Times piece tells us that the cozy NM/Joannou/Koons project will "inaugurate an exhibition series called 'The Imaginary Museum,' which will showcase the best private collections of contemporary art from around the world that are rarely seen by the public."
Those contemplated museums may be imaginary, but the real institution we used to look to for excitement is fast disappearing, if not already gone.
If the New Museum had to fit something into their calendar at the last minute, why not pick some emerging curators to pick some emerging artists and fill all those floors with excited visitors who won't stop thinking and talking about art. (In fact, the directors should be doing this anyway, with deliberate planning, and not as a desperate solution.) The art they're inviting into Marcia's rooms belongs in the older museums she critiqued for their cowardice, and if big collectors can't yet part with their stashes, but still want a larger public to see it, let them invite that public into their homes, as so many have done for years in Miami, Berlin or elsewhere. If they're afraid the carpets will get messed up, tell them to rent a hall. We'll all come - after touring my fantasy show of emerging art at the New Museum.
ADDENDUM: I had originally wanted to make this a very short post, not trusting my anger, but now I can't resist linking to this publicity piece which appeared in Artforum last summer. I already knew about the Koons-styled Joannou yacht, but it was through seeing this beautiful, satirical flyer/poster piece by Pedro Velez that I was directed to the article which had inspired it. Velez says that we can each use his image as we please, adding: "it's a public piece of art..." Now there's a concept.
It helps to have seen the Artforum images first (if you have the stomach for them), but here's Velez's poster:
poster by Pedro Velez from "Dakis Joannou and the Yacht that Conquers" (2008)
I just had this thought: Maybe it's all a joke, that the whole project could be a way for Koons to have a laugh with us all. If so, I doubt the Museum is in on it.
[top image from joeren's blog; bottom image from the artist]