This is an excerpt from a longer post by John Perreault on what may be my favorite art-critical blog (or one of them):
Jeff Koons: Having It Both Ways [Excerpt]
Up on the Roof
When you step out on the roof, there is a "no photography" sign that no one pays any attention to. It was difficult to get a shot of Balloon Dog, Yellow (1994-2000) sans tourists. Singles, couples and groups took turns posing in front of the obscene Koons Dog made out of stainless steel sausages or penises.
So I concentrated on the Sacred Heart (1994-2007), a stainless steel representation of a chocolate heart wrapped in foil, but in spite of its jab at Catholicism, it is a lesser work. Like the Dog, it is an Oldenburgian blowup of a popular object. Still lesser is Coloring Book (1997-2005) -- the coloring book outline of Winnie-the-Poo's Piglet, with scribbled-in colors. Unlike Dog and Heart, the Piglet is not singular enough to have much impact, though it could pass for a good joke about abstract painting.
So here's another question: How come almost anyone can tell that these blowups are not Oldenburgs?
Claes Oldenburg is never nasty. And there is always a little something that lets you know that you are not looking at a straightforward blowup, some kink or glitch. On the other hand, a Koons is bland, seems unmediated and immaculate, as if untouched by human hands -- which is not really the case. We have a friend whose artist-nephew is thrilled to work in the Koons studio, polishing stainless steel, for hours and hours, day after day.
Vote With Your Camera
While waiting for the Balloon Dog to be clear of tourists exposing frozen smiles, it dawned on me that the number of students and other art fans posing in front of the Dog indicated that this was the hands-down favorite. It is iconographic. It is photogenic. And somehow it says: I am here. I am in New York on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. No one, I swear, was having his or her picture taken in front of the Sacred Heart (I did imagine that some nuns might appear at any moment), and no one was posing in front of Piglet.
As everyone knows, the snapshot is a better voting mechanism than the museum postcard. Postcard images are preselected.
The public and I agree that Balloon Dog is the winner.
But it took me awhile, because...
I once had an art administrator friend who was dating a clown. He was actually an actor who did clown work to pay the rent, specializing in making balloon figures at kiddie birthday parties in Ringling Bros. drag. I thought he was both handsome and quite jolly. His good looks notwithstanding, my art administrator friend and her Bozo soon parted ways. She didn't like it when, out of clown drag and back in mufti, he would sometimes wear his clown shoes in the streets of Soho -- to embarrass her, she thought. I fantasized that perhaps it was because he had really big feet and his clown shoes were more comfortable than his wingtips or his sneakers.
Once I rose above that particular memory, I was able to look at Balloon Dog for what it really was: a beautiful monument to bad taste.