We celebrate Eros with flowers, chocolates and a smarmy card, belying the much more complicated dynamic that is love. To illustrate the more complex reality, consider the romantic lives of a few famous artists. Take for example, the tumultuous, polyamorous back and forth of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the marital power dynamics of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock upon his Abstract Expressionist throne, or the Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg love story underlying the take down of the aforementioned AbEx king.
But the arc of the Jeff Koons and Cicciolina love/love-lost story provides a more contemporary and bizarre — if not outright cautionary — tale. Art star Koons and Italian adult film star (and member of Parliament) Ilona Staller were wed following his blockbuster, gasp-inducing 1990 Venice Biennale exhibition of the massive “Made in Heaven” paintings depicting the couple in flagrante delicto.
Cut to her supposed refusal to quit porn, a multi-million dollar, international custody battle over their son Ludwig and well, you get the picture. Honestly, Jeff. What made you think you could settle down with a radical member of the Italian Parliament and porn star who obviously wouldn’t appreciate the majesty of a basketball floating in a plexiglass case or a polychromed wooden statue of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles?
Now is a fully illustrated catalog published on the occasion of Koons’ 2016 show at fellow art star Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in South London’s Vauxhall, which is also home to MI6. Coincidence? Maybe. The book spans the duration of Koons’ career, in which he has investigated mass culture, commerce, advertising, taste, pleasure and banality. In perhaps understandable frustration, Koons had later destroyed all the “Made in Heaven” paintings; so since we’ve been unable to locate the original 2010 Taschen book from the exhibition let’s consider Now, a not as hard to find compendium.
I also recommend one of my favorite titles from an incredible and pioneering photographer. Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (Aperture) is a visual diary chronicling the struggles for intimacy and understanding among friends and lovers. Partly confessional, partly voyeuristic, the photos celebrate a tribe in all their naked truth. Perfectly appropriate for Valentine’s Day, a 30th anniversary issue published in 2015 featured all-new image separations produced using state-of-the-art technologies and specially prepared reproduction files, which offer a lush, immersive experience of this monograph. It will definitely help you reflect on your own rise, thrust and bow on the lover’s timeless stage.
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