If you believe that, back in the day, Duchamp exhibited his urinal as an great art joke, then you might conclude that contemporary art superstars are continuing the joke, and making their fortunes doing so. Are Jeff Koons blow-ups gigantic jokes? If so, are they ironic? In an interview with Charley Rose, Jeff Koons explains that his art is enlightening. How? “I made “Michael Jackson and Bubbles,” I made all these works that tried to communicate very clearly to people that their own cultural history was perfect…..There’s a point where you take on a moral responsibility to your community. I mean, I’ve already learned how to feel sensation myself, and feel transcendence in my life. And automatically then you want to share that.”
Koons sees as his responsibility to make “people” happy. What the “people” want from contemporary art is to believe their culture – the culture murdering each other all over the globe, the culture exploiting animals for amusement, drugging themselves, ruining the climate, reducing itself to poverty exploited by the rich, ad infinum – is perfect. So, if the work is a “joke” it’s one without it’s internal irony. Those of us unimpressed, even disgusted, need to provide our own.
Going back to the old Morley Safer interview at Basil art fair: Safer concludes that contemporary art, as exhibited and traded in the international art fairs, is 95% rubbish, enormous art jokes, one-liners providing the latest toys to keep the billionaires happy, for they are also the “people” whom Koons wishes to enlighten, buying his work for millions.
So, according to Koons, the “people”, including the international billionaire buyers, want art to provide sensation and the assurance that their culture is perfect: and that is happiness.
And this is the purpose of art, according to Jeff Koons.