Friday, October 3, 2008

Jeff Koons at Versailles

I've already seen the Jeff Koons exhibit, but after my "Paris in Context" course on Thursday, decided to hop on the RER and see his exhibit in the Versailles, his pieces set amidst the gaudy baroque architecture of the Versailles palace.

Versailles itself was underwhelming. And cold. Very cold. But contrasted with the setting of Versailles, I've come to appreciate Jeff Koons much more than I ever had when I saw the exhibit (considerably larger and more elaborate) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago last June.

I had a mild argument with my professor on Thursday because I had described Jeff Koons's work as "masculine," dealing with "power," in those terms only because my french was not advanced enough to find the equivalent of "the glorification of man and the estrangement of the two sexes," which would've been too pretentious anyway, but definitely something I would say in, say, and English course. All at once, the class starts to mumble in disapproval. Somehow the general populace doesn't seem to see anything masculine or phallic about a giant metallic fuchsia sculpture of a poodle.

After seeing the exhibit, Jeff Koons definitely seems more... playful, self-aware, and even sardonic. Perhaps this was because of the setting, and the perfect juxtaposition of each select piece to its background. Both the oeuvres and setting are reflections on grandeur, on "luxe," on "pouvoir" and its affiliation with power and the creative spirit, the difference of one artist being self-aware, the other--Louis XIV-- in full comprehension of his "divine" authority as the "roi soleil." (Or perhaps it was the mysterious lack of the pornographic photographs they had in the Chicago exhibit...)

I loved how his "poodle" gave the room a vibrancy it hadn't had before, the way the fuchsia was reflected in the walls and parquet...The infamous rabbit.Michael Jackson and Bubbles. In gold. Yes, gold.
Interestingly enough, Jeff Koons didn't complete any new pieces for the exhibition. He just happened to have sculpted a silver Louis XIV, completely unrelated to the Versailles show!
A vase of flowers dating back to the time of Marie Antoinette in the royal chambers of the Sun King? Nah, just another Jeff Koons.

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