FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 29 W.H. Thorpe and “The Search for an Adequate World-View: A Question of Method” (Feature on artist Jeff Koons)



Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

Francis Schaeffer pictured below:


Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age” , episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” . My favorite episodes are number 7 and 8 since they deal with modern art and culture primarily.(Joe Carter rightly noted,Schaefferwho always claimed to be an evangelist and not aphilosopher—was often criticized for the way his work oversimplifiedintellectual history and philosophy.” To those critics I say take a chill pillbecause Schaeffer was introducing millions into the fields of art andculture!!!! !!! More people need to read his works and blog about thembecause they show how people’s worldviews affect their lives!

J.I.PACKER WROTE OF SCHAEFFER, “His communicative style was not that of acautious academic who labors for exhaustive coverage and dispassionate objectivity. It was rather that of an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts.Yet it is a fact that MANY YOUNG THINKERS AND ARTISTS…HAVE FOUND SCHAEFFER’S ANALYSES A LIFELINE TO SANITY WITHOUT WHICH THEY COULD NOT HAVE GONE ON LIVING.”

Francis Schaeffer’s works  are the basis for a large portion of my blog posts andthey have stood the test of time. In fact, many people would say that many of the things he wrote in the 1960’s  were right on  in the sense he saw where ourwestern society was heading and he knew that abortion, infanticide and youthenthansia were  moral boundaries we would be crossing  in the coming decadesbecause of humanism and these are the discussions we are having now!)

There is evidence that points to the fact that the Bible is historically true asSchaeffer pointed out in episode 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? There is a basis then for faith in Christ alone for our eternal hope. This linkshows how to do that.

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible noted, “Many modern artists, it seems to me, have forgotten the value that art has in itself. Much modern art is far too intellectual to be great art. Many modern artists seem not to see the distinction between man and non-man, and it is a part of the lostness of modern man that they no longer see value in the work of art as a work of art.” 

Many modern artists are left in this point of desperation that Schaeffer points out and it reminds me of the despair that Solomon speaks of in Ecclesiastes.  Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chanceplus matter.” THIS IS EXACT POINT SCHAEFFER SAYS SECULAR ARTISTSARE PAINTING FROM TODAY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED ARE A RESULTOF MINDLESS CHANCE.


Francis Schaeffer noted:

The Search for an Adequate World-View: A Question of Method

Christians try to answer prejudices like these by pointing out that the biblical system does not have to be accepted blindly, any more than the scientific hypotheses have to be accepted blindly. What a scientist does is to examine certain phenomena in the world. He then casts about for an explanation that will make sense of these phenomena. That is the hypothesis. But the hypothesis has to be checked. So a careful checking operation is set up, designed to see if there is, in fact, a correspondence between what has been observed and what has been hypothesized. If it does correspond, a scientist accepts the explanation as correct; if it does not, he rejects it as false and looks for an alternative explanation. Depending on how substantially the statement has been “verified,” it becomes accepted as a “law” within science, such as the law of gravity or the second law of thermodynamics.

What we should notice is the method. It is rather like trying to find the right key to fit a particular lock. We try the first key and then the next and the next until finally, if we are fortunate, one of them fits. The same principle applies, so Christians maintain, when we consider the big questions. Here are the phenomena. What key unlocks their meaning? What explanation is correct?
We may consider the materialistic humanist alternative, the Eastern religious alternative, and so on. But each of these leaves at least a part of these most basic questions unanswered. So we turn to examine the Christian alternative.
Obviously, Christians do not look on the Bible as simply an alternative. As Christians we consider it to be objectively true, because we have found that it does give the answers both in knowledge and in life. For the purposes of discussion, however, we invite non-Christians to consider it as an alternative – not to be accepted blindly, but for good and sufficient reasons.

But note this – the physical scientist does something very easy, compared to those who tackle the really important and central questions for mankind. He examines a tiny portion of the real world – a leaf, a cell, an atom, a particle – and, because these things are not personal and obey very precise laws, he is able to arrive at explanations with relative ease. C. F. A. Pantin, who was professor of zoology at Cambridge University, once said: “Very clever men are answering the relatively easy questions of the natural examination paper.” This is not to disparage physical science. It works consistently with its own principles of investigation, looking further and further into the material of the world around us. But it only looks at part of the world. As Professor W. H. Thorpe of Cambridge University says, it is “a deliberate restriction to certain areas of our total experience – a technique for understanding certain parts of that experience and achieving mastery over nature.”

We are not then moving from definite things to indefinite things, when we look at those aspects of our experience which are more central than the study of an individual physical thing such as a leaf, a cell, an atom, or a particle. Rather, we are turning from a small part of reality to a larger part of reality. Picture a scientist for a moment: he is looking at a particular detail and carrying out his scientific investigation according to the recognized procedures. We have already discussed the method he uses to find the answers. Now we need to draw back and consider the whole phenomenon we are looking at, that is, the scientist carrying out his experiment. When the scientist is seated at his desk, he is able to find answers to his questions only because he has made two colossal assumptions about his situation, in fact about the entire world. He is assuming first of all that the things he is looking at do fit together somehow, even if some areas – such as particle physics – cannot at this time be fitted into a simple explanation. If the scientist did not assume that the things he is studying somehow fit together, he would not be trying to find an answer. Second, he is assuming that he as a person is able to find answers.
In other words, the big questions constitute the very framework within which the scientist is operating. To quote Thorpe again, “I recently heard one of the most distinguished theoretical scientists state that his own scientific drive was based on two fundamental attitudes: a conviction of his own responsibility and an awe at the beauty and harmony of nature.” So we have to resist any suggestion that to be involved in answering the big questions is somehow to be getting further and further away from “the real world.”

The opposite is the case. It is as we come to these big questions that we approach the real world that every one of us is living in twenty-four hours a day – the world of real persons who can think and so work out problems such as how to get to the other side of town, persons who can love, persons who can make moral decisions. These are, in other words, the phenomena which cry out for an adequate explanation. These are the things we know best about ourselves and the world around us. What world-view can encompass them?
C. S. Lewis pointed out that there are only two alternatives to the Christian answer – the humanist philosophy of the West and the pantheist philosophy of the East. We would agree. We agree, too, with his observation that Eastern philosophy is an “opposite” to the Christian system, but we shall look at that later. For the present our attention is directed toward the materialistic world-view of the West.
From time to time we read in the press or hear on the radio that an oil tanker has run aground on rocks and that the crude oil is being driven by the wind and currents onto an otherwise beautiful coast. We can picture the problem of humanism in that way. There is a rock on which all humanist philosophy must run aground. It is the problem of relative knowledge and relative morality or, to put it another way, the problem of finiteness or limitation. Even if mankind now had perfect moral integrity regarding the world, people would still be finite. People are limited. This fact, coupled with the rejection of the possibility of having answers from God, leads humanists into the problem of relative knowledge. There has been no alternative to this relativity for the past 200 years, and there can be no alternative within the humanist world-view. That is what we want to show now.

How Should We then Live Episode 7 small (Age of Nonreason)

#02 How Should We Then Live? (Promo Clip) Dr. Francis Schaeffer

The clip above is from episode 9 THE AGE OF PERSONAL PEACE AND AFFLUENCE

10 Worldview and Truth

In above clip Schaeffer quotes Paul’s speech in Greece from Romans 1 (from Episode FINAL CHOICES)

Two Minute Warning: How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100

A Christian Manifesto Francis Schaeffer

Published on Dec 18, 2012

A video important to today. The man was very wise in the ways of God. And of government. Hope you enjoy a good solis teaching from the past. The truth never gets old.

Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

Dr. Francis schaeffer – The flow of Materialism(from Part 4 of Whatever happened to human race?)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical flow of Truth & History (intro)

Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of History & Truth (1)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of Truth & History (part 2)


This link has a full bio of Dr. Thorpe._____

William Homan Thorpe

1902 – 1986

Professor Emeritus of Animal Ethology, Cambridge University



William Homan Thorpe was born 1 April 1902 in Hastings. His father was an accountant actively involved in a local nonconformist church. Thorpe went to university late, entering Jesus College Cambridge in 1921. He graduated in agriculture, and then took a PhD in entomology (awarded in 1929). After a few years working on parasites at a laboratory in Surrey, he returned to teach in Cambridge, again at Jesus College, and remained there for the rest of his career. He was awarded a personal chair in 1966 and elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1951. He also variously served as president of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and the British Entomological Society. In Cambridge, he founded the sub-department of animal behaviour and an ornithological field station. With Oliver Zangwill, Thorpe pioneered interdisciplinary approaches to questions of behaviour (the Thorpe-Zangwill club met in Thorpe’s rooms for about a decade from the time of Zangwill’s appointment in 1952, bringing together psychologists, anatomists, physiologists and zoologists).
He is remembered for two major academic contributions: together with Nikolaas Tinbergen in Oxford, he championed and established the place of ethology (i.e., the study of animal behaviour in their natural habitats) in the British academy; and he offered a series of classic studies that greatly advanced our understanding of the nature and role of birdsong. Most of his convictions and intuitions about ethology, and to some extent the subject itself, have more recently been found wanting, replaced by new approaches such as neuroscience or sociobiology.
Thorpe chose at various points to be public about his religious and moral struggles and convictions. He registered as a conscientious objector during the Second World War, and joined the pacifist Society of Friends (the ‘Quakers’) as the war came to an end. His interest in ethology was motivated in part by a rejection of mechanistic and reductionistic accounts of science. Animal behaviour, he suggested, shaped evolution even as it was shaped by it. His writing increasingly turned to such questions from Science, Men and Morals (1965) on. His Gifford Lectures belong in this trajectory.
Thorpe died 7 April 1986 in Cambridgeshire.

Debate: Atheist vs Christian (David Silverman vs Frank Turek)


Featured artist today is Jeff Koons

I personally went to the museum in Bentonville, Arkansas and saw this next work by Koons:


[ARTS 315] Art in an Age of Mass-Media: Andy Warhol – Jon Anderson

Published on Apr 5, 2012

Contemporary Art Trends [ARTS 315], Jon Anderson

Art in an Age of Mass-Media: Andy Warhol

September 23, 2011


Tom Wolfe on Modern Art in Sept of 2011

Uploaded on Oct 11, 2011

Washington and Lee University alumnus Tom Wolfe presented a lecture on Modern Art during the 60th reunion of his class, the Class of 1951, held on the campus in September 2011


TIME 10 Questions, Sea… : 10 Questions for Jeff Koons

Published on Nov 29, 2012

The contoversial American artist Jeff Koons talks about his medal from the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program and more


Jeff Koons

About Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons was born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore (1976), and honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008) and Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington, DC (2002). Koons plucks images and objects from popular culture, framing questions about taste and pleasure. His contextual sleight-of-hand, which transforms banal items into sumptuous icons, takes on a psychological dimension through dramatic shifts in scale, spectacularly engineered surfaces, and subliminal allegories of animals, humans, and anthropomorphized objects. The subject of art history is a constant undercurrent in his work, whether Koons elevates kitsch to the level of classical art, produces photos in the manner of Baroque paintings, or develops public works that borrow techniques and elements of seventeenth-century French garden design. Organizing his own studio production in a manner that rivals a Renaissance workshop, Koons makes computer-assisted, handcrafted works that communicate through their meticulous attention to detail. Among the awards he has received are Officer of the French Legion of Honor (2007); the Artistic Achievement Award from Americans for the Arts (2006); and the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2002). Recent major exhibitions have appeared at Château de Versailles, France (2008); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2008); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2008); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2006); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2002); and other institutions. Koons has participated in the Bienal de São Paulo (2002); Venice Biennale (1990, 1997); Sydney Biennale (1990); and the Whitney Biennial (1987, 1989). He was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 2005. Jeff Koons lives and works in New York.

Jeff Koons’s website
Gagosian Gallery
Jeff Koons on the Art21 Blog


Jeff Koons: Potential | Art21 “Exclusive”

Uploaded on Jun 4, 2010

Episode #109: Jeff Koons tells a story from his childhood about finding a sense of self through making art, asserting that art has the potential to inspire similar transformations within each viewer.

Jeff Koons plucks images and objects from popular culture, framing questions about taste and pleasure. His contextual sleight-of-hand, which transforms banal items into sumptuous icons, takes on a psychological dimension through dramatic shifts in scale, spectacularly engineered surfaces, and subliminal allegories of animals, humans, and anthropomorphized objects. The subject of art history is a constant undercurrent, whether Koons elevates kitsch to the level of Classical art, produces photos in the manner of Baroque paintings, or develops public works that borrow techniques and elements of seventeenth-century French garden design. Organizing his own studio production in a manner that rivals a Renaissance workshop, Koons makes computer-assisted, handcrafted works that communicate through their meticulous attention to detail.

Learn more about Jeff Koons:

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Kurt Branstetter & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Mark Mandler. Editor: Paulo Padilha & Mark Sutton. Artwork Courtesy: Jeff Koons. Special Thanks: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.


Jeff Koons

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Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons Portrait.jpg

Jeff Koons in New York Photo: Chris Fanning
Birth name Jeffrey Koons
Born January 21, 1955 (age 58)
York, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Field Artist
Training School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore
Works Puppy (1992)
Balloon Dog (1994-2000)

Jeffrey “Jeff” Koons (born January 21, 1955) is an American artist known for his reproductions of banal objects—such as balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror finish surfaces. He lives and works in both New York City and his hometown of York, Pennsylvania.

His works have sold for substantial sums of money, including at least one world record auction price for a work by a living artist. On November 12, 2013, Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York for $58.4 million, above its high $55 million estimate, becoming the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction.[1] The price topped Koons’s previous record of $33.7 million[2] and the record for the most expensive living artist, held by Gerhard Richter, whose 1968 painting, Domplatz, Mailand, sold for $37.1 million at Sotheby’s in May.[3] Balloon Dog (Orange) was one of the first of the Balloon Dogs to be fabricated, and had been acquired by Greenwich collector Peter Brant in the late 1990s.[4]

Critics are sharply divided in their views of Koons. Some view his work as pioneering and of major art-historical importance. Others dismiss his work as kitsch: crass and based on cynical self-merchandising. Koons has stated that there are no hidden meanings in his works,[5] nor any critiques.[6]

Early life and education

Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania to Henry and Gloria Koons. His father[7] was a furniture dealer and interior decorator; his mother was a seamstress.[8] As a child he went door to door after school selling gift-wrapping paper and candy to earn pocket-money.[9] As a teenager he revered Salvador Dalí, to the extent that he visited him at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. Koons studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute College of Art. While a visiting student at the Art Institute, Koons met the artist Ed Paschke, who became a major influence and for whom he worked as a studio assistant in the late 1970s.[10] After college, he moved to New York in 1977[11] and worked at the membership desk of the Museum of Modern Art[12] while establishing himself as an artist. During this time, he dyed his hair red and would often cultivate a pencil mustache, after Dalí.[11] In 1980, he got licensed to sell mutual funds and stocks and began working as a Wall Street commodities broker at First Investors Corporation. After a summer with his parents in Sarasota, Florida (Koons took on a brief job there as a political canvasser), he returned to New York and found a new career as a commodities broker, first at Clayton Brokerage Company and then at Smith Barney.[11]

Personal life

While a student at the Maryland College of Art, Koons fathered a daughter, Shannon Rodgers. Though he offered to marry the girl’s mother, she felt that they were too young for the commitment, and the couple reluctantly put the child up for adoption. Shannon Rodgers reconnected with Koons in 1995.[13]

In 1991, he married Hungarian-born naturalized-Italian pornography star Cicciolina (Ilona Staller) who for five years (1987–92) pursued an alternate career as a member of the Italian parliament. After seeing her picture in two European magazines, he had flown to Rome, watched her perform, and gone backstage to suggest that they collaborate on what he then thought would be a movie. She agreed. A series of strenuous photographic sessions became the basis for the “Made in Heaven” paintings and sculptures, in various media. The movie never got made, but Koons and Staller fell in love. He courted her through an interpreter–she spoke very little English, and Koons, who spoke about four words of Italian, kept trying to communicate directly by speaking English with an Italian accent. The interpreter had to be let go, because she fell in love with Koons. He proposed to Staller in Venice that spring, and they were married a year later. While maintaining a home in Manhattan, Koons and Staller lived in Munich.[14] In 1992, they had a son, Ludwig. The marriage ended soon afterward amid allegations that Koons had subjected Staller to physical and emotional abuse.[15] Jeffrey Deitch, a close friend who became Koons’s dealer after Sonnabend, couldn’t understand the marriage to Staller. Koons himself says that Ileana Sonnabend and his father had warned him against it, fearing the worst. “Jeff had confused fantasy with reality,” Deitch said. “It was as though he felt the ‘Made in Heaven’ work wouldn’t be authentic unless they were married. It was a moral issue for him.” The marriage began to fall apart even before their child, Ludwig, was born. Staller wanted to keep on performing. (She also offered, publicly, to have sex with Saddam Hussein in exchange for his releasing foreigners held in Iraq.) And then, after divorce proceedings had begun in New York, Staller spirited baby Ludwig out of the New York town house that Koons had rented for them and took him to Rome. Koons spent more than a decade and millions of dollars in legal battles over custody. The battle ensued with the award of sole custody to Koons by the U.S. court in 1998, which had also dissolved the marriage. However, he lost custody when the case went to Italy’s Supreme Court.[16] In 2008, Staller filed suit against Koons for failure to pay child support.[17]

Koons is now married to Justine Wheeler, an artist and former employee who began working for Koons’ studio in 1995. The couple have six children.[18]


Jeff Koons rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists who explored the meaning of art in a media-saturated era.[19] He gained recognition in the 1980s and subsequently set up a factory-like studio in a SoHo loft on the corner of Houston Street and Broadway in New York. It was staffed with over 30 assistants, each assigned to a different aspect of producing his work—in a similar mode as Andy Warhol‘s Factory (notable because all of his work is produced using a method known as Art fabrication).[20] Today, he has a 1,500 m2 (16,000 sq ft) factory near the old Hudson rail yards[21] in Chelsea, working with 90 to 120[21] regular assistants.[8] Koons developed a color-by-numbers system, so that each of his assistants[22] could execute his canvases and sculptures as if they had been done “by a single hand”.[7] “I think art takes you outside yourself, takes you past yourself. I believe that my journey has really been to remove my own anxiety. That’s the key. The more anxiety you can remove, the more free you are to make that gesture, whatever the gesture is. The dialogue is first with the artist, but then it goes outward, and is shared with other people. And if the anxiety is removed everything is so close, everything is available, and it’s just this little bit of confidence, or trust, that people have to delve into.”[23]

The Pre-New, The New, and Equilibrium series

Since 1979 Koons has produced work within series.[24] His early work was in the form of conceptual sculpture, an example of which is The Pre-New, a series of domestic objects attached to light fixtures, resulting in strange new configurations. Another example is The New, a series of vacuum-cleaners, often selected for brand names that appealed to the artist, which he had mounted in illuminated Perspex boxes. Koons first exhibited these pieces in the window of the New Museum in New York in 1980. He chose a limited combination of vacuum cleaners and arranged them in cabinets accordingly, juxtaposing the verticality of the upright cleaners with the squat cylinders of the “Shelton Wet/Dry drum” cleaners. At the museum, the machines were displayed as if in a showroom, and oriented around a central red fluorescent lightbox with just the words “The New” written on it as if it were announcing some new concept or marketing brand.[25] Another example for Koon’s early work is The Equilibrium Series (1985), consisting of one to three basketballs floating in distilled water, a project the artist had researched with the help of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman.[7] The Total Equilibrium Tanks are completely filled with distilled water and a small amount of ordinary salt, to assist the hollow balls in remaining suspended in the centre of the liquid. In a second version, the 50/50 Tanks, only half the tank is filled with distilled water, with the result that the balls float half in and half out of the water.[26] In addition, Koons conceived and fabricated five unique works for the Encased series (1983-1993/98), sculptures consisting of stacked sporting balls with their original cardboard packaging in glass display case.[27]

Statuary series

Koons started creating sculptures using inflatable toys in the 1970s. Taking a readymade inflatable rabbit Koons cast the object in highly polished stainless steel, resulting in Rabbit (1986), one of his most famous artworks. Originally part of the private collection of Ileana Sonnabend, Rabbit is today owned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. A proof of the sculpture is owned by Eli Broad.

The Rabbit has since returned to its original soft form, and, many times larger at more than 50 feet high, taken to the air. On October 13, 2009, the giant metallic monochrome color rabbit used during the 2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade[28] was put on display for Nuit Blanche in the Eaton Centre in Toronto.

Luxury and Degradation series

First shown in Koons’ eponymous exhibitions at the short-lived International With Monument Gallery, New York, and at Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1986, the Luxury and Degradation series is a group of works thematically centered on alcohol. This group included a stainless steel travel cocktail cabinet, a Baccarat crystal decanter and other hand-made renderings of alcohol-related paraphernalia, as well as reprinted and framed ads for drinks such as Gordon’s Gin (“I Could Go for Something Gordon’s”), Hennessy (“Hennessy, The Civilized Way to Lay Down the Law”), Martell (“I Assume You Drink Martell”) and Frangelico (“Stay in Tonight” and “Find a Quiet Table”)[29] in seductively intensified colors on canvas[8] Another work, Jim Beam – J.B. Turner Engine (1986) is based on a commemorative, collectible in bottle in the form of a locomotive that was created by Jim Beam; however, Koons appropriated this model and had it cast in gleaming stainless-steel.[30] The train model cast in steel titled Jim Beam – Baggage Car (1986) even contains Jim Beam bourbon.

Banality series

Koons then moved on to the Banality series. For this project he engaged workshops in Germany and Italy that had a long tradition of working in ceramic, porcelain, and wood.[11] The series culminated in 1988 with Michael Jackson and Bubbles, a series of three life-size gold-leaf plated porcelain statues of the sitting singer cuddling Bubbles, his pet chimpanzee. Three years later, one of these sold at Sotheby’s New York for $5.6 million. Two of these sculptures are now at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The statue was included in a 2004 retrospective at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo which traveled a year later to the Helsinki City Art Museum. It also featured in his second retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 2008. The statue is currently back at the newly opened Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art at Tjuvholmen in Oslo.

Anticipating a less than generous critical response to his 1988 Banality series exhibition, with all of his new objects made in an edition of three,[31] allowing for simultaneous, identical shows at galleries in New York, Cologne, and Chicago, Koons devised the Art Magazine Ads series (1988–89).[32] Placed in Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, and Art News, the ads were designed as promotions for his own gallery exhibitions.[33] Koons also issued Signature Plate, an edition for Parkett magazine, with a photographic decal in colors on a porcelain plate with gold-plated rim.[34] Arts journalist Arifa Akbar reported for The Independent that in “an era when artists were not regarded as ‘stars’, Koons went to great lengths to cultivate his public persona by employing an image consultant.” Featuring photographs by Matt Chedgey, Koons placed “advertisements in international art magazines of himself surrounded by the trappings of success” and gave interviews “referring to himself in the third person.”[20]

Made in Heaven series

In 1989 the Whitney Museum asked Koons to make an artwork about the media on a billboard[7] for the show “Image World: Art and Media Culture”. Koons employed Ilona Staller as a model in the shoot that formed the basis of the resulting work for the Whitney, Made in Heaven (1990–91).[35] The series of paintings, photographs, and sculptures portrayed Koons and Staller in explicit sexual positions and created considerable controversy. It was first shown at the 1990 Venice Biennale.[36] Koons reportedly destroyed much of the work when Staller took their son Ludwig with her to Italy.[37] In celebration of Made in Heaven’s 20th anniversary, Luxembourg & Dayan chose to present a redux edition of the series.[38][39]


Puppy in Bilbao

Tulips in Bilbao

Koons was not among the 44 American artists selected to exhibit his work in Documenta 9 in 1992,[40] but was commissioned by three art dealers to create a piece for nearby Arolsen Castle in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The result was Puppy, a 43 ft (13 m) tall topiary sculpture of a West Highland White Terrier puppy, executed in a variety of flowers (including Marigolds, Begonias, Impatiens, Petunias, and Lobelias)[41] on a transparent colour-coated chrome stainless steel substructure. In 1995, the sculpture was dismantled and re-erected at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sydney Harbour on a new, more permanent, stainless steel armature with an internal irrigation system. While the Arolsen Puppy had 20 000 plants, the Sydney version held around 60 000.[42]

The piece was purchased in 1997 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and installed on the terrace outside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.[43] Before the dedication at the museum, an Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) trio disguised as gardeners attempted to plant explosive-filled flowerpots near the sculpture,[44] but was foiled by Basque police officer Jose María Aguirre, who then was shot dead by ETA members.[45][46] Currently the square in which the statue is placed bears the name of Aguirre. In the summer of 2000, the statue traveled to New York City for a temporary exhibition at Rockefeller Center.[41]

Media mogul Peter Brant and his wife, model Stephanie Seymour, commissioned Koons to create a duplicate of the Bilbao statue Puppy (1993) for their Connecticut estate, the Brant Foundation Art Study Center.[47] In 1998, a miniature version of Puppy was released as a white glazed porcelain vase, in an edition of 3000.[48]

Celebration series

Koons entitled Celebration, to honor the ardently hoped-for return of Ludwig from Rome. Consists of a series of large-scale sculptures and paintings of, among others balloon dogs, Valentine hearts, diamonds, and Easter eggs, was conceived in 1994. Some of the pieces are still being fabricated. Each of the 20 different sculptures in the series comes in five differently colored “unique versions”,[49] including the artist’s cracked Egg (Blue) won the 2008 Charles Wollaston Award for the most distinguished work in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.[50] The Diamond pieces were created between 1994 and 2005, made of shiny stainless steel seven-feet wide.[51] Created in an edition of five versions, his later work Tulips (1995–2004) consists of a bouquet of multicolor balloon flowers blown up to gargantuan proportions (more than 2 m (6.6 ft) tall and 5 m (16 ft) across).[52] Koons finally started to work on Balloon Flower in 1995.[53]

Koons was pushing to finish the series in time for a 1996 exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, but the show was ultimately canceled because of production delays and cost overruns.[54] When “Celebration” funding ran out, the staff was laid off, leaving a skeleton crew of two: Gary McCraw, Koons’s studio manager, who had been with him since 1990, and Justine Wheeler, an artist from South Africa, who had arrived in 1995 and eventually took charge of the sculpture operation. The artist convinced his primary collectors Dakis Joannou, Peter Brant, and Eli Broad, along with dealers Jeffrey Deitch, Anthony d’Offay, and Max Hetzler, to invest heavily in the costly fabrication of the Celebration series at Arnold, a Frankfurt-based company. The dealers funded the project in part by selling works to collectors before they were fabricated.[55] In 1999, his 1988 “Pink Panther” sculpture sold at auction for $1.8 million, and he returned to the Sonnabend gallery. Well aware of Koons’s bottomless needs and demands, Ileana Sonnabend and Antonio Homem, her gallery director and adopted son, nevertheless welcomed him back; in all likelihood they sensed (correctly, it turned out) that he was poised for a glorious second act–something that only he, among his generation of overpublicized artists, has so far managed to pull off. Koons, however, no longer confines himself to a single gallery. Larry Gagosian, the colossus of New York dealers, agreed to finance the completion of all the unfinished “Celebration” work, in exchange for exclusive rights to sell it.

In 2006, Koons presented Hanging Heart, a 9 feet tall highly polished, steel heart, one of a series of five differently colored examples, part of his Celebration series.[56] Large sculptures from that series were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2008. Later additions to the series include Balloon Swan (2004–2011), an 11.5-foot (3.5-metre), stainless-steel bird,[57] Balloon Rabbit (2005–2010), and Balloon Monkey, all for which children’s party favors are reconceived as mesmerizing monumental forms.[58]

The series also includes, in addition to sculptures, sixteen[59] oil paintings.[60]

Popeye and Hulk Elvis series

Paintings and sculptures from the Popeye series, which Koons began in 2002, feature the cartoon figures of Popeye and Olive Oyl.[61] The works Hulk (Friends) and Hulks (Bell) (both 2004-2012) feature apparently inflatable Incredible Hulks that actually weigh almost a ton each and are made of bronze and wood.[62]

Antiquity series

Referring to the ancient Roman marble statue Callipygian Venus, Metallic Venus (2010–2012) was made of high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating and live flowering plants.[62]

At the center of each scene in the Antiquity paintings (2009–13) is a famous ancient or classical sculpture, meticulously rendered in oil paint and scaled to the same size as the sculptures. The equally detailed backdrops include an Arcadian vision.[63]

Recent work

Commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim in 1999, Koons began a new series, Easyfun, comprising paintings and wall-mounted sculptures. One year later, he designed Split-Rocker, his second floral sculpture made of stainless steel, soil, geotextile fabric, and an internal irrigation system, which was first shown at the Palais des Papes in Avignon. In 2001, Koons undertook a series of paintings, Easyfun-Ethereal, using a collage approach that combined bikinis, food, and landscapes painted under his supervision by assistants.[64] For the season 2007/2008 in the Vienna State Opera Jeff Koons designed the large scale picture (176 sqm) Geisha as part of the exhibition series “Safety Curtain”, conceived by museum in progress.[65] Koons is currently working with American pop performer Lady Gaga on her 2013 studio album Artpop, including the creation of its cover artwork featuring a sculpture he made of Lady Gaga.[66]


In 1999, Koons commissioned a song about himself on Momus‘s album Stars Forever.

In 2006, he appeared on Artstar, an unscripted television series set in the New York art world and from February 15 to March 6, 2008, he donated a private tour of his studio to the Hereditary Disease Foundation for auction on Charitybuzz.

A drawing similar to his Tulip Balloons was placed on the front page of the Internet search engine Google. The drawing greeted all who visited Google’s main page on April 30, 2008 and May 1, 2008.[67]

Koons had a minor role in the 2008 film Milk playing state assemblyman Art Agnos.[68]

From his 2010 Tulip designs for Kiehls Crème de Corps, a portion of the proceeds go to the Koons Family Institute.[21]

In September 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave Koons the task of helping to review the designs for a new Tappan Zee Bridge.[69]


Koons acted as curator of an Ed Paschke exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, New York, in 2009.[70] In 2010 he curated an exhibition of works from the private collection of Greek billionaire Dakis Joannou at the New Museum in New York City. The exhibition, Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection, generated debate concerning cronyism within the art world as Koons is heavily collected by Joannou and had previously designed the exterior of Joannou’s yacht Guilty.[71]

BMW Art Car

The Koons-designed car — driven by Dirk Müller, Andy Priaulx and Dirk Werner — was retired after 53 laps of the race.

Jeff Koons was the artist named to design the seventeenth in the series of BMW “Art Cars”. His artwork was applied to a race-spec E92 BMW M3, and revealed to the public at The Pompidou Centre in Paris on 2 June 2010.[72] Backed by BMW Motorsport, the car then competed at the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.[73]

Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP

He collaborated with American recording artist Lady Gaga for her third studio album, ARTPOP.[74] The album cover depicts a nude sculpture of Gaga made by Jeff Koons in front of a blue ball sculpture, and pieces of other art works in the background such as “Birth of Venus” painted by Sandro Botticelli, which inspired Gaga’s image through the new era, including in her music video for “Applause” and the VMA performance of the song.[75] The image of the cover was revealed piece-by-piece in a social marketing campaign where her fans had to tweet the Twitter hashtag “#iHeartARTPOP” to unlock it.[76]


Koons has also produced some fine wine-related commissions. In December 2012, Chateau Mouton Rothschild announced that Koons was the artist for their 2010 vintage label – a tradition that was started in 1946. Other artists to design labels include Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dalí & Joan Miró, amongst others.[77] In August 2013, Dom Perignon released their 2003 vintage, with a special edition done by Koons, as well as a made-to-order case called the ‘Balloon Venus’. This has an recommended retail price of e15,000.


Since a 1980 window installation at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Koons’ work has been widely exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions. In 1986, he appeared in a group show with Peter Halley, Ashley Bickerton, and Meyer Vaisman at Sonnabend Gallery in New York. In 1997, the Galerie Jerome de Noirmont organised his first solo show in Europe. His Made in Heaven series was first shown at the Venice Biennale in 1990.[36]

His museum solo shows include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1988), Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (1993), Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin (2000), Kunsthaus Bregenz (2001), the Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli (2003), and a retrospective survey at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2004), which traveled to the Helsinki City Art Museum (2005). In 2008, the Celebration series was shown at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[78]

Considered as his first retrospective in France, the 2008 exhibition of 17 Koons sculptures at the Chateau de Versailles also marked the first ambitious display of a contemporary American artist organized by the chateau. The New York Times reported that “several dozen people demonstrated outside the palace gates” in a protest arranged by a little-known, right-wing group dedicated to French artistic purity. It was also criticised that ninety percent of the $2.8 million in financing for the exhibition came from private patrons, mainly François Pinault.[79]

The May 31 – September 21, 2008 Koons retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago,[8][80][81] which was widely publicized in the press, broke the museum’s attendance record with 86,584 visitors.[82][83] The exhibition included numerous works from the MCA collection, along with recent paintings and sculptures by the artist. The retrospective exhibition reflects the MCA’s commitment to Koons’s work as it presented the artist’s first American survey in 1988.[84] For the final exhibition in its Marcel Breuer building, the Whitney Museum is planning to present a Koons retrospective in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.[85]

In July 2009, Koons had his first major solo show in London, at the Serpentine Gallery. Entitled Jeff Koons: Popeye Series, the exhibit included cast aluminum models of children’s pool toys and “dense, realist paintings of Popeye holding his can of spinach or smoking his pipe, a red lobster looming over his head.” [86]

In May 2012, Koons had his first major solo show in Switzerland, at the Beyeler Museum in Basel, entitled Jeff Koons. Shown are works from three series: The New,Banality and Celebration as well as the flowered sculpture Split-Rocker.[87]

Also in 2012, Jeff Koons. The Painter at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt focussed primarily on the artist’s development as a painter, while in the show Jeff Koons. The Sculptor at the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt, the sculptures by Jeff Koons entered enter into dialogues with the historical building and a sculpture collection spanning five millennia. [88] Together, both shows form the largest showing of Koons’s work to date.[89]


[ARTS 315] Contemporary Laments: An Update on the Human Condition – Jon Anderson

Published on Apr 5, 2012

Contemporary Art Trends [ARTS 315], Jon Anderson

Contemporary Laments: An Update on the Human Condition

November 11, 2011


The 10 Most Important Artists of Today

Filed: 6/5/11 at 10:00 AM  | Updated: 6/13/11 at 7:55 PM
‘The Dream’ (Rune Hellestad / Corbis)

We live in an excellent moment for art. Yes, I’m surprised too. Given the sheer quantity of junk to be seen, such a declaration seems absurdly Pollyannaish. But after a friend asked me to tell him which artists to watch, I was shocked to find my list verging on 50 names. At the top were a solid 10 artists—some already famous, some little known—who seemed not just good, but so good they might enter the history books. (I was counting only artists who belong to our moment. Other living geniuses, like Jasper Johns and Richard Serra, proved themselves in earlier eras.)

Think back to the great years and places in art: 1515 in Rome, or 1912 in Paris. How many of us can cite 50 Renaissance talents, or that many cubists, whose work still shines? Finding so many artists worth getting behind in 2011 must say something about the moment we’re in.

Here, then, are the top 10 artists of our time—at least as I judge them. A handful are showing work right now at the Venice Biennale, the world’s most important roundup of contemporary art. Many others will have work for sale at Art Basel, the huge commercial fair that opens in Switzerland on June 15. I’m not certain all the artists on my list are flawless, or that I won’t change my mind about some of them. But I can say this to anyone who cites today’s junk as supposed proof of art’s current failure: it’s just the dross on which quality work always floats.

top-ten-artists-FE05-wearing-vl Gillian Wearing has redefined portraiture by photographing herself in rubber masks she’s cast from other people’s faces. In this specially created piece, titled Me in ‘My Mask’, she dons a mask of her own face now. (Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Maureen Paley, London)

A portrait of the artist, unmasked.

She may be better known than any other artist today. Or rather, the look of Gillian Wearing’s art must be known by more people. It’s at the root of all those ads in which “average people” are photographed holding hand-scrawled signs revealing what they really want from a bank or a car.

But in Wearing’s artworks, which launched her to stardom in 1993, the words have truly been scrawled by the subjects, and are often poignant. A cheery young banker type in suit and tie has made a sign reading “I’m desperate.” “In Britain, we’re a bit scared of showing our emotions in public,” says Wearing, 47, who believes her art is about “people opening up, and saying things they’ve never said before.” Instead of buying the old cliché that portraits peer into souls, Wearing lets her sitters decide what to reveal.

For 2 Into 1, Wearing asked a middle-class mother to talk about the virtues and vices of her two 10-year-old sons and also got the boys to dish about Mum. Then she videotaped the boys lip-syncing to their mother’s taped words, and the mother doing the same to her sons’. All three protagonists are thus conveying someone else’s opinions of them—often cruel ones.

One of her most striking, most disturbing projects is a series of photos in which she has cast masks of other people’s faces, then photographed herself wearing them, leaving a seam where her eyes peer through the rubber. She’s donned the face of her adult brother, and of herself at 17. And, in a new image made specially for NEWSWEEK, she’s created a mask of what she looks like today, then put that on as an assumed persona. “At the heart of my work is portraiture,” Wearing says. But her art is as much about resisting that genre as embracing it.


The Picasso of the moving image, the Leonardo of sound.

In January, something unheard of happened in New York. A show of substantial contemporary art—of video art, no less—became a popular sensation. People lined up for hours in the bitter cold to take in a new work called The Clock, by the Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay.

The piece was nothing more than a 24-hour montage of film clips about time and its keeping, but it delved deep into how culture—the culture of movies, in this case—helps track the unfolding of things. “You always think that artists are above pop culture, but no, that’s where we live,” says Marclay, 56, who moved from New York to London a few years back. “Entertainment is a dirty word in the art world.” But by pulling Hollywood apart at the seams—he was one of the first artists to make work by sampling old movies—Marclay is revealing the artful way it has always been knit together.

I balked at first at how The Clock had such immediate appeal, because what’s instant sometimes lacks depth. But Marclay’s likable piece seems profound, thanks to its fiendish complexity. After years of work, Marclay got his thousands of clock shots to synchronize with the actual time in the place where they’re being seen. The work’s soundtrack is in such contrapuntal play with its visuals that Bach would have been proud.

Yet there are also Marclays that are absolutely simple. For a video called Guitar Drag, he mounted amplifiers and speakers in the back of a pickup, plugged in a Fender Stratocaster, then dragged the poor instrument along country roads. As the video progresses, what begin as power chords become a barely audible rumble, released by a guitar that’s now kindling. The piece was taped in Texas, where two years earlier three white men had similarly dragged a black man, James Byrd Jr., to his death.

Marclay, who is tall and thin with close-cropped hair that’s beginning to gray, is a legend in the DJ world. He’s credited as one of the inventors of “turntablism,” the art of using spinning records as noise—and rhythm machines. And he is the artist who, more than anyone, brought sound into the hallowed halls of fine art. Last summer, when the Whitney Museum hosted a Marclay retrospective, you never knew whether you’d encounter a singer improvising from a Marclay “score” (nothing more than a compendium of sound effects transcribed from comic books) or a musician playing Marclay’s Wind Up Guitar, a hybrid of plucked strings and music boxes.

Marclay’s career began in the late 1970s when, as an art student newly arrived from Switzerland, he hung around New York’s alternative scene. He says the groundbreaking bands he saw prompted a question: “Why wasn’t music considered art?” Marclay, a visual artist who can’t read or play a note, set about making sure it would be.


She builds better worlds.

Marjetica Potrc has made some important art: she’s built dry toilets for Latin American slums and promoted a water jug for Africa that can also absorb the force of land mines. She’s taken the idea that art can change the world and made it come true. Sure, her art-world actions don’t do that much actual good. Instead, they do what art does best: they talk about how the world might be better.

“I believe in art. People need art to negotiate their world,” Potrc says. And the depth of that belief may be this artist’s true contribution.

Potrc (pronounced “PO-turtch,” with Marjetica sounding close to “Mari-EH-tee-tza”) was born in 1953 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she still lives. She got her start in architecture, but began making building-themed art about 15 years ago.

A typical Potrc begins with a structure or situation she finds in a distant place—say, Venezuela or Rajasthan, India—then tweaks to make more livable. “We should respect people in favelas, and learn from them, and their living conditions.” Other work comes closer to sculpture, as she mashes up constructions: in a big installation at MIT called Hybrid House, Potrc set down a wild building that hybridized features of buildings from Caracas, the West Bank, and West Palm Beach. By colliding three such different visions, Potrc achieves a surrealist edge that also embraces the real.

Painful videos reveal life’s brutal truths.

A deaf choir grunting out a Bach cantata.

A naked amputee clutching a nude person with limbs, so that together the pair looks like one complete body.

A young woman dying from decaying bones, interviewed in bed about the pain she is in.

Artur Żmijewski himself uses the word “brutal” to describe his work, and his videos are indeed as hard to watch as any art I’ve seen. They are also profound and important and even humane, in the same way Goya’s brutalities are. Why not help deaf people sing Bach, regardless of the ugly results? Why flinch at pain seen up close?

“I’m not a good guy who wants to change the world for the better,” says Żmijewski (pronounced “Jmi-YEV-skee”). But he’s happy to reveal that it might need some changing.

The 45-year-old Polish artist describes living through the fall of the Soviets and then the advent of a rapacious capitalism he saw as “a kind of virus that infects each mind—people didn’t expect the dark side to this freedom.” He headed to art school on a quest for a way out of the morass: “I was looking for a kind of language, and I realized that art could be that language—that art could help me understand the world.” He discovered that video was his best bet for simply getting at that world and explaining it.

A piece recently screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York presents footage of a group of Polish sculptors, of no particular note, whom Żmijewski paired with factory workers to make public art about the virtues of labor. The sculptures that get made are as lame as you’d expect, but there’s something poignant about the sincerity that went into their making, showing lefty ideals still at work. The piece is almost sweet. “Maybe I was tired, a little bit, with the brutality,” Żmijewski says.


An antidote to the pictures Hollywood is making.

Tacita Dean doesn’t go much to movies. “Hollywood bores me,” she says. That comes as a surprise, since Dean has used old-fashioned film stock and projectors to make some of our era’s best art. (Her first American retrospective is currently in planning at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum.)

Film may be Dean’s medium, but she uses it more to paint pictures than to tell stories. She makes landscapes with it. Banewl, from 1999, is an amazing 63-minute contemplation of a solar eclipse, as watched among cows in Cornwall, England. Fernsehturm (German for “TV Tower”) reveals the passing scene at a revolving restaurant above Berlin, where Dean lives, and yields insights into the fall of the wall and the urban sublime.

Dean has also done interiors. A recent piece surveys a gallery of sculptures by Joseph Beuys by showing only the empty walls of the rooms they’re displayed in. That’s typical of Dean’s crabwise approach—her films examine a subject without simply revealing it. “They’re not that informative; they’re more observational, about depiction,” she says. Dean achieves what I call the Cézanne Effect: the ability to take a seemingly straightforward look at the world and make it have unending depth.

Dean was born in 1965, into the middle class in the tidy British county of Kent. “Art was an escape from how I was raised,” she says, explaining how she fled to art school in Cornwall “to be very far away from Kent.”

One fact of Dean’s biography may be a red herring in explaining her art: her grandfather was one of the founders of Ealing film studios, though Dean says that was barely relevant to her upbringing.

Another detail may be significant, but more delicate—Dean has long suffered from almost disabling arthritis. She doesn’t want to be known as an artist of illness (“It’s like Roosevelt and his wheelchair”), but acknowledges that the stately tone of her work could be linked to her health. “I plod through the world slightly slower than everyone else.”


See her artistic response to a ‘Dear Jane’ letter …

A male art critic can be forgiven some nerves before an interview with the Parisian artist Sophie Calle. Calle isn’t always kind to our sex. An ex of hers who dumped her by email got his comeuppance in Calle’s exhibition at the last Venice Biennale: she documented 107 women “responding” to his letter, including a sharpshooter blowing holes through it and a female parrot tearing it to shreds. In an earlier piece, Calle came across a stranger’s address book, interviewed his contacts about him, then published the resulting “profile” in a series of newspaper pieces.

With all this in mind, I was caught off-guard when I met the surprisingly pleasant 57-year-old at a Tribeca café one morning. There was not a shred of art-star glower.

Maybe that’s because she came to her artistic vocation by accident.

Calle explains that she began by just doing peculiar things, such as photo-graphing strangers she followed, or documenting 23 people she’d invited to sleep in her bed. It was others, she says, who first described those actions as art and her as an artist.

It is the unartiness of Calle’s work—its refusal to fit any of the standard pigeonholes, or over anyone’s sofa—that makes it deserve space in museums.

A common misperception is that Calle’s art is all about her. “My work isn’t a diary. If it was only therapeutic, i’d rather buy myself a dress.”


His interactive works are a commentary on existence.

He’s one of our best artists, but luckily Francis Alÿs came late to his calling. When he first labored to make art, with scant background in the field, he made art that was all about labor. For all the years since, his art has talked about the exertions we all make to survive.

In one video we see the artist pushing a huge block of ice through the streets of Mexico City, where he lives, until his giant load is no more than an ice cube to be kicked. Watching him complete an absurd, self-imposed task reminds us of ourselves most of the time.

For his piece When Faith Moves Mountains, Alÿs got 500 shovel-wielding volunteers to line up at the edge of a huge dune and, as per the work’s title, push the first few inches of sand up over the top and down to the bottom of the other side. Had they continued for years, their “mountain” might have moved to Brazil.

And then there’s Tornado, a wild new video in which Alÿs hand-carries his camera into the raging center of oak-sized Mexican dust devils. He’s yet another artist “at the eye of the storm,” but this time not metaphorically.

Alÿs, now 51, was a Belgian architect working in Mexico City when visa problems stranded him there in 1989. He took advantage of the break to try making art. As a latecomer to the business, it seems as though he could only distill it to its strange essentials, as a pointless effort to reach vague goals that aren’t clearly worth reaching even once you’re there.

In another video, called Rehearsal I, Alÿs himself attempts to surmount a steep hill in a crummy Volkswagen Bug. An Alÿsian catch makes the task more complex: he syncs his driving with a recording of a Mexican brass band rehearsing a tune. As long as the band plays correctly, he steps on the gas; when it stops for a flubbed note, he lets his car roll back. The musicians need more rehearsal; Alÿs never reaches the top.

This may seem to be art about how strange and hard it is to make art. But it also comes to standas all art does, deep down—for being alive and striving to do anything in a universe that grinds all efforts to dust.


Photographic compositions like old-master tableaux.

He made his first important works while today’s other leading artists were still in art school—or grade school. That makes it all the more impressive that Jeff Wall‘s art feels so current.

If I came cold to Destroyed Room, the huge, lightbox-mounted color photo that launched Wall’s career in 1979, I would hardly know it was three decades old. Its vision of a domestic interior torn apart by unseen forces achieves a perfectly contemporary blend of pure documentation, Hollywood staginess, and the impact of old-master tableaux. More than anyone, Wall took the traditional art of still photography and used it to launch a new genre called “photo-based art.” His pictures have stronger links to classic paintings, and to the 1960s avant-garde, than to Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams.

Speaking from Vancouver (despite worldwide acclaim, the 64-year-old has never abandoned his native city), Wall recalls a moment in the 1970s when the most advanced artists, inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s “anti-art” stance, had become “iconophobes,” giving up on making pictures altogether. That, he says, made him extra keen to “recover the sense of being a picture-making artist … to move forward in time with the old pictorial art, that never gets old.”

Wall has made photographs that seem explicitly political: a pseudo-documentary street scene that depicts a racist encounter, or a surreal ghost scene set in Soviet Afghanistan, where dead Russian troops resurrect. He’s also made the straightest of documents, showing street corners in Vancouver and basement still lifes. And he’s made pictures that are simply strange: a naked giantess, maybe 70 years old and two stories tall, visiting a library; a lone black man in a basement lit with 1,369 bulbs, just as described in Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s novel about race.

For a long time, Wall’s photos were read almost as stand-ins for theoretical texts about the nature of society and the meaning of images. But recently he’s been allowing his art to float free. “If [viewers] just saw what I said I did, it would be lifeless,” he says. “The more people see it differently from me, the happier I am.”

For three decades, Wall has been testing the full range of what pictures can still do and mean, after anti-art had “proved” them dead.

top-ten-artists-FE05-koons-vl ‘Bourgeois Bust—Jeff and Ilona’ ((c) Jeff Koons / National Galleries of Scotland)

He collapses the high and the low.

We’ve heard of the man who mistook his wife for a hat, who could describe different objects but couldn’t recognize what they were. He had a neurological condition called associative agnosia. I believe that Jeff Koons, perhaps today’s most famous artist, has an artistic condition you might call aesthetic agnosia. Koons can see the difference between classic paintings and pornographic photos—he collects the paintings and has riffed on the porn—but refuses to admit they mean different things.

Even after 30 years, Koons’s mashups of high and low—a dog knotted from balloons, then enlarged into a public monument; a life-size bust of Michael Jackson and his chimp in gold-and-white porcelain—still feel significant. “The hierarchy of things is a kind of defense mechanism that just alienates,” says Koons, 56. “Whatever you respond to is absolutely fine.”

Sitting in his lab-clean studio in Manhattan, he expounds on the full meaning of a new piece: a facsimile of the Venus of Willendorf, one of humanity’s first sculptures, that he’s twisted from balloons and is enlarging as a towering marble. For Koons, the aesthetic agnosiac, the piece isn’t a wacky sendup or a dada collision of opposites. It’s a real inquiry into the sexual content of our earliest art. “It’s really about expansion, trying to create a vaster world, a more interesting world,” he says. That, for sure, he’s achieved.

top-ten-artists-FE05-hirst-vl ‘The Dream’ (Rune Hellestad / Corbis)

Selling diamond-studded skulls and unicorns in formaldehyde.

Damien Hirst was the only artist who wouldn’t be interviewed for this project. That’s just as well. I couldn’t imagine asking the necessary questions: “How is it that your work has managed to encapsulate the essence of what it is for art to sell out? How did your whole career become a metaphor for how consumption has become our guiding force?” That is precisely what Hirst has achieved. Achieving it has made him a great artist.

Warhol once said, “Good business is the best art.” His studio was called the Factory, and it turned out art the way you’d make widgets. Hirst has surpassed him: he’s shown how the business of art, with its bubbles, may be the best business for today’s artists to explore.

Take Hirst’s diamond-studded platinum skull. Its bling matters less than the $100 million tag the artist decided to attach to it, more a symbol than a statement of price. When the skull did sell, it became clear that Hirst was part of the consortium that bought it, giving the piece a performance-art angle.

Yet the work doesn’t celebrate selling out. It’s a skull, and has the same grim edge as Hirst’s other art supplies: cut-up animals, dead flies, and drugs. Hirst may be laughing all the way to the bank, but his art leaves the rest of us sobered.


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E P I S O D E 7 Dr. Francis Schaeffer – Episode VII – The Age of Non Reason I am thrilled to get this film series with you. I saw it first in 1979 and it had such a big impact on me. Today’s episode is where we see modern humanist man act […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 6 “The Scientific Age” (Schaeffer Sundays)

E P I S O D E 6 How Should We Then Live 6#1 Uploaded by NoMirrorHDDHrorriMoN on Oct 3, 2011 How Should We Then Live? Episode 6 of 12 ________ I am sharing with you a film series that I saw in 1979. In this film Francis Schaeffer asserted that was a shift in […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” (Schaeffer Sundays)

E P I S O D E 5 How Should We Then Live? Episode 5: The Revolutionary Age I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Francis Schaeffer noted, “Reformation Did Not Bring Perfection. But gradually on basis of biblical teaching there […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 4 “The Reformation” (Schaeffer Sundays)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – Episode IV – The Reformation 27 min I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Schaeffer makes three key points concerning the Reformation: “1. Erasmian Christian humanism rejected by Farel. 2. Bible gives needed answers not only as to […]

“Schaeffer Sundays” Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 3 “The Renaissance”

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 3 “The Renaissance” Francis Schaeffer: “How Should We Then Live?” (Episode 3) THE RENAISSANCE I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Schaeffer really shows why we have so […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 2 “The Middle Ages” (Schaeffer Sundays)

  Francis Schaeffer: “How Should We Then Live?” (Episode 2) THE MIDDLE AGES I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Schaeffer points out that during this time period unfortunately we have the “Church’s deviation from early church’s teaching in regard […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 1 “The Roman Age” (Schaeffer Sundays)

Francis Schaeffer: “How Should We Then Live?” (Episode 1) THE ROMAN AGE   Today I am starting a series that really had a big impact on my life back in the 1970′s when I first saw it. There are ten parts and today is the first. Francis Schaeffer takes a look at Rome and why […]

By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Francis Schaeffer | Edit | Comments (0)

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