Steps for viewing Jeff Koons on the Roof:
Step one: Make friends with a security guard
Step two: Ask for directions to the roof.
Step three: Repeat steps one and two until you arrive at the roof.
It took me five security guards to get to the roof and, in arriving at the Jeff Koons exhibit, I’m disappointed. There are only three pieces, or maybe two pieces and a vertical blob. This show makes me question the art world, but maybe that what it is suppose to do. The exhibition brochure (also difficult to find) suggests that others have similar concerns about Koons’ ‘art,’ as the brochure identifies Koons as “an American artist known internationally for his controversial and intriguing contributions to contemporary art.” The pieces located in the roof garden certainly fit this description!
Regardless of the art’s controversial value, Koons’ work is well suited for the roof garden, as the space was designated to show the works of individual artists. The space complements the sculptures by adding to the surprise one feels when stumbling upon them. If one wasn’t use to seeing Koons’ art in a white walled gallery, the roof garden only enhances the shock value. I remember my own first encounter of Koons – finding Puppy at 7 AM in Bilbao, hours before the Guggenheim would open. All I could do upon seeing the gigantic topiary of a dog was laugh and later buy a Puppy t-shirt. I still own and wear it of course.
Koons’ work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Balloon Dog, Coloring Book, and Sacred Heart (Red/Gold), are not such a far cry from Puppy. The exaggerated size, the choice of object and the displacement of this object from everyday life are the terms which unite Koons work – turning people both on to and off of his art. Looking at the three, Balloon Dog becomes my favorite; it is also the image that was used in major press material. Sacred Heart (Red/Gold) is featured on the exterior cover of the program and Coloring Book can be found in the interior, pictured in black and white with the accompanying text: “cheerful pastel colors.”
The pieces are well placed on the roof, allowing for space to walk around each sculpture. The wooden porch area is left unutilized, probably because of the weight limitations with Koons’ work. And while, at first, Coloring Book seems out of place, it quickly becomes just as unusual as its two companions. From reading the brochure, I become aware of and can actually see the outline of Winnie the Pooh’s Piglet character in the artwork. Ironically, the piece seems to be a favorite for the children visiting the space.
Though it’s a slow day, people have crowded around the sculpture and the roof garden becomes a perfect place to sit and discuss the artwork. And that is what this exhibit does – Koons’ pieces beg to be questioned. They crave public discussion, not in a self-serving manner, but as a gift to society to stir up the long unanswerable question of “what is art?”.