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Jeff Koons: Made in Heaven. Art or Porn?

Conceptual Art

Jeff Koons' sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles has captured the imagination of some porn blogs, (How did they get here??) and are linking the image from this blog (??)

It's not really at all surprising because Koons was married to and has a child with the Porn Star Ilona Staller (aka Cicciolina), who once held a seat in the Italian Parliament. She also offered to have sex with Bush I and Sadamn if they would stop the Gulf War I. However, I am pretty sure that reference is lost on those guys as there are no mention of it at all... I guess Koon in many ways share similar sensibilities. (I can't believe those guys are using my bandwidth tho. Ergh...)

13jeffeatingilonakamasutra.jpg (Karma Sultra, 1991, glass)

Koons made a series called “Made in Heaven” in 1991 which were sculptures and paintings of him and his wife having (graphic) sex. It sold poorly. But after the artist and porn star bitterly divorced, Koon, in a fit of rage, smashed up the leftovers that no one bought -which in turn sent the prices of the remaining pieces sky rocketing.

Art or not? You decide: Made in Heaven Series

16Dirty-JeffOnTop.jpg Dirty - Jeff on Top, 1991, Plastic



If it's beautiful, it's art... Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Jesus christ, some of those pics are hardcore dirty. But porn or art? I agree with the implication of Rose's comment - "art" is, by any logic I can think of, subjectively deduced.

But doesn't the question of what exactly art is precede any serious attempt to answer? Or can we, looking at a Monet or van Gogh, or at Michaelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel, or at a stylized picture of an artist ejaculating onto his wife's face or vagina, simply say, "Now that's art!"?

Can there ever be a standard of beauty? Can art ever be viewed objectively? If any objective standards could be divined, what would they be? Skill with a paintbrush? Deft hands with wet clay? Big t*ts?

(By the way, Koon and wife have the closest shaves I have ever seen. They must have the steady hands of a cardiac surgeon.)


Yann, if they're hotlinking your image, simply change the image to something disappointing or unexpected. Goatse?


It's the dog ceramics that bother me most. :)


The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a form of intellectual lazyness. There are plenty of objective criteria to determine what is art and what is not. I'm not saying that's it's all purely objective - if so, there wouldn't be any discussion at all - but the job of art critics is to get away from 'because I say so' arguments and keep the discussion as factual as possible.

One criterium, as mentioned by Tom, is skill. But it's not a very important one. You can be as skillfull as Vermeer, but if you use that skill to make more Vermeers (like Van Meegeren did) you're simply a criminal.

A more important criterium is innovation. I think this is the most central criterium available. You can be inventive within the existing framework of art - like a painter introducing a new style of painting. But what we're talking about here has to do with content.

If there's one person Koons (I always thought it was Koons, not Koon - the site you linked to says so too) reminds me of, it's Andy Warhol. Warhol changed the subject matter art deals with. He took objects that were considered taboo, or were simly not used in the art world and made them into art. Koons does the same. He takes subjects that the art world loathes (kitsch) and society rejects (porn) and turns them into art.

But why is it art when he does it and not when someone else does it? I think the difference lies in the execution, the depth it is given. This is different from skill. He places these subjects in his own world. A less imaginative person would have simply made stone or bronze sculptures. But Koons, with his love of kitsch, made them in coloured glass. This adds layers of meaning. You could say he uses the taste and style of the bourgeoisie to portray something they loathe. You could come up with many more such theories. That is depth: inviting discussion and theorising. I think that's what's the difference between good art and bad art.


Oh and thanks for the link - I've been looking for a good Koons site for a while.


"I like stuff." - Ralph Wiggum.


Koon and his wife are constantly blurring the line between porn and art, or sometimes (in the case of his porn-star wife) porn and politics.

The anecdote about koon smashing up his remaining pieces is a telling indictment of the state of art today-- it isn't until the pieces become "rare" that anyone gives a damn.

It transcends mere titilation because of the 'verbal coreeleative' that all art must have-- the contextual explanation that elevates it from the status of "dirty pics" to "thoughtful work of art." In other words, if the photos and pieces were accompanied by X-rated stories that dictate the action, then it is porn. But if Koon explains his intent as something more than just prurient interest, then it is art.


I may agree with that something that is beautiful is a simplistic view of "art" (as in contermporary, western, "conceptual" art) but I do not think it's "intellectual laziness" because people like Koon and Warhol made every day objects "Beautiful" and "Worthy" which is what made them the ground breaking artists they are lauded to be.

To me this kind of art is vital to society, because it questions the structures in where we place things, can help dictate discourse for the future and pushes human throught into a more expansive next level.

Good art doesn't always have to be pleasent to look at, (these are not, I can't even say I "like" them) but probably should make us a little uncomfortable, because it challenges our every day demarcations.

Bad art.. well I know it when I see it. :)



Actually bad art provokes in me feelings of "And??? So what?" "Who cares?" "Its not saying anything interesting"

And those dogs ceremics disturbs me the most. They are so awful I prefer to advert my eyes. I actually question whether those pieces are art most of all.



I wasn't saying you're not allowed to use the word 'beauty'. I was trying to say that "but I think it's beautiful" is the same kind of argument as "because I say so". It's a way of not having to discuss things. It's a way of not having to think about what makes something beautiful. And that's why it's intellectual lazyness.


Harald, sometimes it's simply suffice to let someone say 'it's beautiful' and not start accusing them of intellectual laziness. You'd probably turn a declaration of love into an interrogation ;)


It sounds like whether art is either "art," "good art," or "bad art" is conditioned on it's context. Sex says this outright; Herald suggests it by using such terms or statements as "innovative" or "things the art world loathes", or "things society rejects," all of which make reference to the the characteristics of the environment surrounding the object in discussion, rather than observing specific characteristics inherent in the object itself that place it within the class of "art."

So is art "art" by analogy? Is something art because of the way the object's characteristics are analogized to it's environment, viz. context?

If this is true, conceptions of art are subjective, dependent upon the perceiver's ability to analogize the object to its environment. It would also explain why some people see only soup cans and nonsense when viewing Warhol, whereas others see the beautification of everyday objects. It would also explain the need for artists to articulate the "meanings" of their work - all of which that I know of are analogies to ideas and things within the artists environment.

Am I making sense? Or does this sound like total bullshit?


Tom: well, some of it. ;)

As I see it there are several phases in looking at art.

First there is the first impression. Colour, texture, composition. I'll use as an example this medicine cabinet ( by Damien Hirst. Not his best work, but very useful for this kind of discussion. The graphic design of medicine packaging has a unique visual language that is quite appealing in itself. That makes for a nice first impression.

Second, you have a closer look. (disclaimer: I believe Hirst made several medicine cabinets - I can't tell from this picture if this one does it too) When you look closer you'll see that the top shelf has medicines used for anything that can go wrong with your head. Below that are medicins for the torso and the lowest has cures for everything related to feet. This makes it a bit more interesting.

Third, there is context. In this case, you'd have to know that medical reference books traditionally use this order too; head first, then working its way down to feet. At least, that's what I've heard (haven't checked).

Fourth, there is art history. This is one of those pieces in the tradition of putting everyday objects in a museum.

When something only has the first layer it is not considered art. That's where the word superficial comes from; a lack of depth, a lack of layers. (seen Shrek? think onion)

"the perceiver's ability to analogize the object to its environment" is not subjective. It has to do with knowing certain facts and theories. Theories that (like every discussion) should be discussed using logic and arguments.

This is why at our local art academy students are not allowed to use the word 'beautiful' when discussing their work. They have to learn to quantify their statements, to show their work is well thought-through, that they didn't just throw some paint at a canvas and come up with some bullshit story. It's a way of seperating quality from bullshit. Art from kitsch.


>So is art "art" by analogy? Is something art >because of the way the object's characteristics >are analogized to it's environment, viz. context?

This concept has captured and explained the very nexus between contemporary art and what the public generally see as art. And why the person on the street in general see today's art as utter and complete "hog wash" and why something they see absolutely no merit can go for sale for a few million.



I admit forthwith that I am an artistic layman.

Herald suggests a method by which art can be analyzed objectively, but I still think that "art" is, at the definitional level, subjective.

"the perceiver's ability to analogize the object to its environment" is not subjective. It has to done with knowing certain facts and theories. Theories that (like every discussion) should be discussed using logic and arguments."

>>>>What is the nature of artistic facts and theories? Theories by definition are speculation; and what is "fact" in this context? That a pattern in the thing resembles a pattern in it's environment? That the thing has a history of being considered artistic? That the thing is made with pretty colors or by an innovative medium?

My overall point is that I think the distinction b/w "art" and "non-art" is a subjective call. I think most anything could be bootstrapped into the class of "art" given the proper explanation.I think it's largely a matter of interpretation, not a matter of objective analyses. By definition, objectivity is expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.

Can anyone define "art" without interjecting interpretation, personal feelings or prejudices?

However, on the subject of "art analysis" facts and theories can be useful. But I think whereas art analysis may be undertaken (as Herald showed), "art" defies objective definition. "Art" is transmutable.


It's just a process model maybe? Like schools of thought? Like if you apply a psychological framework you will come out with a certain conclusion, if you use an sociological framework, you come out with something else. So if you look at art in a personal way, it's subjective, but in an "art world" way, there is another way of seeing it?

You know what. I never liked Warhol or Picasso or even Van Gogh, especially could not see the merits of the "Sun Flower" which was the most expensive piece of art ever to be sold in the eighties, although could tell you why "Cubism," "pop art" and "impressionism" are important in an art historical way.

But I was lucky enough to see all three through time in retrospectives. And each time, I have to say my mind was changed instantly when faced with the great works of those artist because the immediacy, of viewing each of them, I came to the same conclusion which was "The pieces are beautiful." They left a huge impact and impression. Practically physical. Wahol left me breathless. Monet's "water lilie" made me feel very small as a person. Michael Angelo's "David" put tears in my eyes. Van Gogh's sun flower, made me question how anyone could mix paint that way, and Picasso's paintings seriously made me understand seeing an object from different perspectives as the same time.

It's one thing to sit and look at tiny prints on a page of a book, it's another to be faced with giant, huge pieces with the brush strokes right in front of you.

For now, I can't understand why the Mono Lisa is the most egnimatic painting of all time, although I keep my mind open because I figure maybe one day I get to go to the Lourve and will understand it for myself.

As this conversation goes on, I think the "great works" might actually for whatever reason trancend a lot of different perspectives and leaves many if not all its viewers with a sense of awe. Maybe that's why it's great. I have heard people when confronted with Damien Hirst's Cows and Sharks for the first time, and said they couldn't explain why they stared so much, but there was "something there."

I still don't think you can take away the "beauty" or "Impact" of a piece, and completely discuss it on an interlectual level, but on the other hand, I think if you can see the art in context it adds to the pleasure of view. Maybe it's like with everything, the more you know and you understand, the more something becomes interesting.



Wassily Kandinsky's paintings do that to me. The paintings are abstract; yet it seems like something lies beneath the surface. I find something about his geometric designs fascinating. My favorite is "On White II".


Hmm. Yeah. I don't really get him. :) I think I prefer bold colors and simple lines. It's a bit busy for me.

The fact he is a "Musician Painter" reminds me of a piece my friend did once at my birthday (I had paper and crayons stuck on a board for people to draw at), and he did something really similar and said that's how he "sees" music.



Most people I know don't think much of him, either.

I don't know what Kandinsky modeled his art after, if anything at all; but I perceive in his paintings the human mind.

Like this: Each of his designs in On White II are small, fashioned shapes. They clearly don't fit together to form anything cognizable. They have design, they don't appear randomly formed. In my "human mind" analogy, the shapes are thoughts and systems of thought within an open system. That is to say, there is no clear border, no confinement of thought - the thoughts could interrelate, multiply, spread out, disintegrate. Thoughts suspended in an open ether, like the bounded rationality of the mind.


I had to wait until I wasn't at work to view the link. Ha.

Whatever, if he wants to call that 'art' and have someone pay $5,000 for it, then they're both suckers. It all seems a little immature and insecure to me. I mean, everyone is sexual and has the capacity to commit sex acts, but it seems like it's only the insecure that have to advertise it (a la Britney Spears).

If Jeff Koons really wants to create something shocking and thought-provoking, maybe he could create images of two *normal* people having sex-- you know, people who aren't porn stars-- body hair, fat rolls, embarassing facial expressions and all.


"I prefer bold colors and simple lines" - Mondriaan! (

Anyway, when it comes to art, size doesn't matter. Otherwise totalitarian art would be the greatest of all. Interesting how you wrote "I can't understand" and then came up with "enigmatic"... The Mona Lisa lacks some of the more superficial qualities (the background is wrong, for example) but has a lot of backstory. Or 'backmystery'. There have been many studies into who the subject of the painting is, why the background is so strange, why she's wearing such simple clothes (most poor people couldn't afford paintings of themselves) and what she's smiling about. I think that's the major attraction of the Mona Lisa. Most of the great masterpieces have that strangeness to it. The term 'masterpiece' has only partially to do with artistic qualities. For example, why is the Nightwatch ( considered Rembrandts masterpiece and not one of his selfportraits or religious pieces? I think it's because it represents an image of the 'golden age' (17th century) we have in this country which plays a large role in our culture. Also, it's a big and impressive painting so it's easy to like for the masses. Plus, it has been in the Rijksmuseum so long (it has only been moved twice - once in 1939 and once this year) people just can't imagine it anywhere else. If there's one paining that will never ever be allowed to be sold it's the Nightwatch. It's not just ours - it's us.


Oh it's worth much much more than $5000 now... shocking isn't it?

As for Mono Lisa, I think it's Leonardo as a cross dresser and that's what he's smiling about. He's a woman!! :)

It has been said that the background was about evolution (because Leonardo found a huge whale fossil in a cave in Tuscany) and it was about geology, etc, because he knew that the whole creation myth was not correct, the man was not a man of God. I saw another documentary that traced the portrait to a woman who was a wife of a trader in Florence. Who knows. I don't really understand why it's so important to find out who the woman is. I mean, maybe he was before his time, and just wanted to paint a beautiful woman?

I also saw another documentary about the Shroud of Turin, and they think it was made by Leonardo with early "photo" chemicals on the linen and made some experiements and a good case of it. And how since leonardo who was both gay and illegitamate was not a man of religion and even put his own face on the shroud. Coz he would have found it funny that the pilgrims would be worshiping him for eternity.

Well in some ways we do, with his art.



its porn


its porn

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