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Modernist Economics

A bag with the image of the “Mona Lisa” is part of the Koons collection. Credit Louis Vuitton Malletier/Melanie & Ramon

When you have 35000 square feet of industrial space and a crew of dozens of art specialists manufacturing your work you have to find new ways to “bring home the bacon.” In this article in the NYT Jeff Koons and LVMH have created a new line of  bags for the extremely well-heeled consumer. The PR machinations maintaining and explaining the artist’s brand while using that brand to “add value” to the LVMH products are textbook “synergy.”  Koons has taken a few of his Gazing Ball appropriations, and used those free range images of old masterworks as imagery for the handbags. Of course the bunny, Koons’ logo, is added as a grand finale.

“I think we’re going to get some pushback,” Mr. Burke said. “People are going to be upset about the sacred entering the realm of the profane. But we like to do things that can be perceived as politically incorrect. If we are getting flak, we think we are doing something right.”

I don’t know about “sacred,” but right there is the Modernist’s attitude about how high Art is supposed to work. When one get’s “flak” it means that one is innovating, “breaking down walls,” “breaking new ground,” etc. And by pissing people off it means that one is making Art. Modernists confuse argument with innovation. For instance innovation now is not in creating new forms or coming up with new ideas. Innovation is about transgressing the rules of copyright. Artist’s works are no longer misunderstood or banned for content, but rather, they are removed from the market and sued for infringement of ownership. For the Modernist innovation walks hand in hand with the definition of fair use. The transgression is then tried and “certified” by the courtrooms of the Southern District. If, however, the artist contacts the owner of the copyright and pays for permission of use, would the work be seen as transgressive? Would cooperative art making still stand up to the Modernist idea of innovation?

“And they have the support of the museums. They didn’t need them — the art is all in the public domain — but they wanted the best quality photographs to work from, which meant using high-resolution shots that the institutions keep for their records. Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre, was on board very quickly. “I totally agree with this project,” he said.”

If transgression of copyright means that the work is classified as Art, then cooperation with the owners of the copyright clearly means that these bags are not Art. These products are nothing more than luxury goods produced for a class of consumer that can afford to purchase them. And I’m betting they are not cheap. Think of all the institutions these works had to clear in order to get made. Think of the money changing hands. Modernist “Art” like this requires the approval and cooperation of a phalanx of corporate, legal, and market interests. But we shouldn’t be surprised. The Modern became Modernist long ago, and we all exit through the gift shops.

There are so many eye popping quotes in this article that I should just appropriate the entire thing and post it without comment.
But then, I too would be just another machined Modernist.

Jeff Koons’ New Line – NYT, April 11, 2017.

One Comment

  1. Martin Mugar wrote:

    “They touch on the metaphysical: the right here right now and its connection to the past and the future. They’re about shine, the basics of philosophy, passion, what it means to be a human, what it means to be an animal, the idea of transcendence.”
    Didn’t have to go beyond the first paragraph to learn that words have no fixed meaning for Koons. Whoopie!he is playing in a sandbox of words and tossing them around like playthings, with no rhyme or reason.

    Friday, April 14, 2017 at 4:57 PM | Permalink

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