Thursday, November 28, 2019

Annals of Art and Commerce: The Philosopher

Jeff Koons manages to come up in the recent Times obituary for Jake Burton Carpenter, ("Snowboarding Visionary Jake Burton Carpenter Dies at 65,"11/21/19). It seems like an unlikely place to find the name of famous artist. But art and commerce, particularly in the case of Koons can produce strange bedfellows. If they haven’t done so already, Harvard, Stanford and the other major business schools might do well to add a course on Koons, particularly as it relates to the kind of cross-pollination between the worlds of art and business as documented in Nathaniel Kahn’s film about the art market, The Price of Everything.  Koons plays a major role in that movie and while one may despise the artist for his exploitative tendencies, there's a curious self-reflexively Brechtian element by which he not only earns barrels of money from what he does, but also makes a statement about commodification—much in the way that classic Pop Art did. The paragraph in the Jake Burton Carpenter obit refers to the fact that in the course of becoming a snowboarding enthusiast Koons involved himself with Carpenter, producing a snowboard called “The Philosopher.” The Times obit described it thusly: “It used Mr. Carpenter’s technical specifications, notably a twin tip that would let the snowboarder ride forward and backward, and Mr. Koons’s likeness of Plato with a rendering of the allegory of the cave from ‘The Republic.’” "High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture" was the title of a famous MoMA exhibit, but this art object, made to navigate the ground, has it both ways.

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