Oh look, another major retailer tie-in for a major museum show. Yes, the upcoming Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum has a corporate fashion deal, with a balloon-dog emblazoned handbag available for $49.95 at select locations starting July 17 — corresponding with the opening of the world’s largest H&M store in Midtown Manhattan.
Koons will be collaborating with the retail giant both on merchandise and the façade for their new location, which they plan to make into an upscale version of their regular retail spaces: green and white marble, herringbone woodwork, and concierge service.
The timing of the Koons retrospective has rubbed some people the wrong way, particularly after the 2014 Whitney Biennial, where questions of diversity and white supremacy were raised throughout the run of the exhibition.
I, for one, am pleased with the new Koons bags. All the douchebags of the art world will be easier to spot at art fairs and events. People will pretend they are porting the bags ironically, but we’ll all know better.
The Koons media blitz has begun, and a puffed-up Vanity Fair profile on the artist (they did another one back in 2001) features a ridiculous photo of him working out in the buff. With shades of shirtless Vladimir Putin, the image undoubtedly is attempting to portray a virile artist, even if his art has been flaccid and overinflated for years.
Should we expect any surprises from the Koons show? No.
I’ll give the last word to critic John Yau, who perfectly encapsulated the Koons mentality in these pages one year ago:
When he is on, Koons has his finger to the pulse of the audience whose adulations he hungers after, as ravenous as the phallic nozzle of the vacuum cleaner he encased in Plexiglas. He is a cultural figure “whose faults,” as Baudelaire said of the then-popular, obsessively scrupulous Ernest Meissonier, are “well attuned to the faults of the masses that have singularly assisted his popularity.”
Let them have handbags!