Can Jeff Koons Teach Me to Paint?

Can Jeff Koons Teach Me to Paint?

Can Jeff Koons Teach Me to Paint?

Can Jeff Koons Teach Me to Paint?

He loves the idea of “laying in the yard and just looking up, thinking about the vastness of life, the power of nature, and the beauty of a flower,” but acknowledges that nature is “ruthless and just will take any course to be able to fulfill its desire.” And that 1988 porcelain sculpture of a topless blonde holding Pink Panther? Mr. Koons asks, “What would she be doing with this Pink Panther other than maybe masturbating with it?”

All in all, though, this is a fairly chaste version of Mr. Koons. This is an artist who depicted himself in erotic poses with the porn star Ilona Staller, his first wife, in his “Made in Heaven” paintings. Those works go unmentioned in the MasterClass videos. (The series is gingerly described in an accompanying PDF — a kind of Koons study guide — of 35 pages.)

This Mr. Koons is speaking to fellow executives — the managers of people and capital who are his potential collectors. While his army of assistants (downsized last year) deals with “the same details over and over again” in his art, he says, “I’m able to leave the room and come back with a fresh eye and be able to see something a little more clearly.” Chief executives and management consultants, and those who read their memoirs and self-help books, would no doubt approve.

Mr. Koons emphasizes that he strove to remain “self-reliant,” working day jobs (selling Museum of Modern Art memberships and commodities), and that it’s important to be able to deal with criticism. This is solid advice for aspiring artists — some of the only instances of it in the show. The only real assignment he gives is to “maybe create a notebook” of images to inspire you.

I will admit that I have not yet done this, but I am embracing his guidance about self-acceptance.

Like any good advertisement, the most sizzling sequences venerate his latest products. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “Pink Ballerina,” an intricate stone rendering of a dancer lifting her lace tutu. Mr. Koons says he has been working on it for eight years, and selected pink rock to convey “information of femininity and hopefully of fertility and a sense of future.” I’m continually awed by his ability to free-associate, but worry students would be laughed at by art-school peers if they offered his brand of analysis.

Much of what our host says about art does not make logical sense, but on certain points he is conspicuously direct. He wants us to know that, when it comes to dedicated artists, “oftentimes, the late work is really the best.” And he is assiduous about details; when one fabrication job fell short of his expectations, he remembers worrying that people are “going to feel that I didn’t care about them.”


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