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By exploring similarities and differences between Andy Warhol (Pop Art) and Jeff Koons (Neo Pop Art) works and ideas, my objective is to conclude that Pop Art past and present is more than a mere celebration of consumer and popular culture, but also an effective vehicle that challenges the way we consume, experience and interpret our everyday. Whilst changing the landscape of art from being only a privilege for the minority of wealthy and highly educated these two artists have flung open the doors to the masses.
Since the early 1980s, Jeff Koon’s has become a magnetic artistic persona open for critical and public opinion. In his adept deployment of the internal promotional mechanisms to further mass self-promote his artistic self, Koon’s has attracted the attention and critizism of the art critics and art public alike. In the process, he has created a promotion hype around himself, which matches if not surpasses. That surrounding Andy Warhol two decades earlier.
Representing himself through the promotional mechanisms of the culture industry as the art world maverick to take his place at the vanguard, Koon’s openly advocates appropriating the communicative powers of commercial mass media for getting his message across,
‘I want to have an impact in people’s lives. I want to communicate to as wide a mass as possible. And the way to communicate right now is through TV and advertising. The art world is not effective right now.’
His personal appearances in numerous commercial media, television talk shows, glossy national and international lifestyle publications, street billboards, and ads in “artworld” magazines featuring Koons himself, all testify to this strategy. He reveals himself as having sophisticated business acumen with a keen sense for successfully promoting himself and his art. His kinship to Warhol in this respect is plainly evident. I think Warhol’s own comments effectively indicate the commercial aspirations inherent in both artists’ over-arching projects.
‘I want to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business … but making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.’
By embracing the business of art and art of business, both Warhol and Koons have played a major role in redefining the cliché of an artist only becoming famous and wealthy after they have ceased to exist.
While comparisons drawn between Warhol and Koons have some merit, Koons, takes many of the characteristics originally associated with Warhol one step further, significantly altering the play of meanings in the process. Both do, however, court controversy, both cultivate a ‘hands off” approach to their artwork, and both understand and actively engage the promotional aspects of commercial mass media.
Warhols “hands off” approach and his revolt of the idea of skill and craftsmanship as a way of expressing the artist’s personality was further enhanced with his adoption of mechanical processes of film and silkscreen printing. This processes allowed for many imperfections that Warhol embraced and did not attempt to rectify, a clear example of this can be seen in his Marilyn Diptych. ‘Marilyn Diptych’, 1962 (silkscreen on canvas)
‘The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do………….If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, there I am. There’s nothing behind it.’ Andy Warhol
The many imperfections echoed in his work from crudely colored photographs of the actress whose sense of ‘self’ is degraded through the repetition of her image, to the right hand panel physically degraded to the black and white image as the printing ink runs out on the silkscreen reflects an ephemeral quality of fame. The panels combined allude to a memorable discourse on the nature of celebrity and its power to both create and destroy its acquaintances. So without acknowledging or even realising the fact Warhol’s work went deeper in meaning than he may have intended through their representational disruption.
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