October 4, 2016

"In the old days we had these communal fireplaces. And then we had cathedrals, and so the arena is kind of the communal fireplace of the 21st century. It’s the new cathedral."

Oh, I think in the old days, we had arenas...



The quote is from Vivek Ranadivé, the majority owner of the Sacramento Kings, who have a enormous new arena with a newly unveiled Jeff Koons sculpture. The sculpture is 18 feet tall and looks not like a king, but sort of like a teddy bear. It's brightly and messily (but very expensively) colored and is called "Coloring Book." The Kings only paid $8 million for the large object, even though Ranadivé proclaims Koons "the 21st-century Michelangelo."

Here's how the NYT article follows though with  Ranadivé's cathedral theme:
Mr. Koons offered a slightly homier take on civic religion. He recalled visiting the top of City Hall in Philadelphia as a child, and being inspired both by the sweeping view and Alexander Milne Calder’s 37-foot-tall statue of William Penn.

“It made me feel tied to history, tied to my community,” he said. “I think it changed my life. Now, ‘Coloring Book’ is not that William Penn sculpture,” he said, “but if in some way you can touch the life of somebody, and add just a little bit of curiosity, a little bit of wonder — you can’t ask for more.”
Koons also concedes: “I’ve never followed sports.”

After reading the whole NYT article and writing everything you see above, I had to Google "what animal is koons' 'coloring book' supposed to be." I found this in the Sacramento Bee:
“Coloring Book,” Jeff Koons’ artwork chosen for outside the new downtown arena, is based on Piglet, a cute animal appropriated from A. A. Milne via Walt Disney. And he’s covered with bright colors as if a child had colored outside the lines in a coloring book. How sweet. Or is it an ironic put-on?
Not according to Koons, who once said, “A viewer might at first see irony in my work ... but I see none at all. Irony causes too much critical contemplation.”
Ha ha. But of course the remark is ironic... right? And therefore the sculpture is ironic... or... whatever. It doesn't really matter. It's art looking like the art of a child, which is the sort of thing that's been around for a long time. I associate it with Jean Dubuffet, who made my #1 favorite piece of public art, "Group of 4 Trees" at the Chase Manhattan Building in NYC.

It's funny that the New York Times didn't mention that the sculpture represented a character created by A.A. Milne when it referred to Alexander Milne Calder. Alexander Milne Calder should not be confused with his grandson, the 20th century sculptor Alexander Calder, who, unlike Alexander Milne Calder, was another one of those sculptors who indulge in playful childishness.

What's with all the sculptors wanting to be like little children? Is it not discordant with the rich man's burbling that his arena is like a cathedral and his artist is like Michelangelo? Michelangelo and cathedrals are quite the opposite of anything childlike.

But Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

55 comments:

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The Kings only paid $8 million for the large object...

...“but if in some way you can touch the life of somebody, and add just a little bit of curiosity, a little bit of wonder — you can’t ask for more.”


Apparently you can ask for $8,000,000 more.

Sebastian said...

To have a civic religion you have to believe in something. Michelangelo and Calder did. Koons?

Pretty soon, the "new cathedral" will be a stage for the self-worship of progressivism ("Civilization 3.0"). Half of it built with public funds, of course. Some eternal verities don't change: even Civilization 3.0 likes Other People's Money.

LordSomber said...

Ranadivé doesn't know anything more about art than Koons does about sports.

Koons has yet to put away his childish things, and it shows.

David Begley said...

As a college basketball fan, unless a Creighton alum was playing, I have no interest in paying money to see an NBA game. The NBA has turned basketball into a porn version of the college game.

Laslo Spatula said...

As an exercise, reconcile Koons' childish whimsy with his previous work:

Jeff Koons' "Made in Heaven" series NSFW!!!!!!

Again" NSFW!!! BUT IT'S ART.

For those who don't click: porn-style paintings of Koons and his wife-to-be La Cicciolina.

BUT IT'S NOT PORN IT'S ART!

Childlike colors, though: thematic.

And La Cicciolina: Remember her?
" She was elected to the Italian parliament in 1987, with approximately 20,000 votes."

Compare with ou current political season.

I am The Replacement Laslo.

The Cracker Emcee said...

I sometimes think sports arenas are where cities stash the crap they don't want downtown.

tim in vermont said...

I thought that was Bernie Sanders who said that, not Jesus.

mikee said...

I submit the [giant demonic horse](http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/03/17/the_blue_mustang_is_part_of_several_conspiracy_theories_centered_on_denver/bluemustang.jpg.CROP.promo-large2.jpg) outside the Denver airport for your consideration.

Carol said...

As long as it's not a Turd in the Plaza.

dustbunny said...

Koons has successfully portrayed the lack of substance, the emptying out of contemporary life for a couple of decades. He took off where Warhol left. It is banal and silly and unfortunately a perfect mirror. His sculptures are giant shiny tchotchkes, that's it, there is nothing else there.

Chuck said...

I'm just thankful that it wasn't another typical sports sculpture. Is there any form of art that has produced more junk, than the sculptures of sports heroes found at countless sporting venues?

At Detroit's Comerica Park, there are a small handful of them in the left field mezzanine. All of them terrible. There's the Joe Paterno statue, now dismantled. Michigan State has a Magic Johnson statue that looks like it was created by the same sculptor who did the now-infamous "Scary Lucy" Lucille Ball statue in her hometown.

They all look like Leroy Neiman paintings in three dimensions.

Even when sports sculptures go abstract, they are ordinarily horrible. There's the football obelisk at Camp Randall, which manages to look worse every time I see it. There's a big bat at Wrigley Field, which is about as subtle and as creative as getting whacked with a Louisville Slugger.

And on and on.

There must be an exception (or two) that proves the rule. Somebody, I expect, will suggest a good sporting-themed sculpture. I just can't think of one now.

tim in vermont said...

The statue of William Penn wasn't all about the artist. When did art become completely about the artist? Michelangelo's art was not about the artist.

Chuck said...

Okay I just thought of one.

It's the Sports Illustrated-commissioned Joe Louis "Fist" at Jefferson Avenue and Woodward in downtown Detroit. And even that drew howls of criticism when it was unveiled.

https://afeatheradrift.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/25.jpg

So there. The exception that proves the rule.

coupe said...

"In the old days we had these communal fireplaces. And then we had cathedrals..."

Isn't that a quote from the Islamic invaders?

"I love the smell of burning cathedrals in the morning..." - Suleiman the Magnificent

traditionalguy said...

Banality for sale. With the new 15 seconds of fame award included absolutely free once you paid the first 7 million.

tim in vermont said...

For public art, it's not terrible. It is far more interesting than I had expected.

traditionalguy said...

Seriously, the claim is that sports teams are the only permitted communal worship objects.

mccullough said...

A Teddy Bear is an apt symbol for the Sacramento Kings.

Laslo Spatula said...

If Mapplethorpe were still alive what we he put in front of a sports arena?

Or rather: which professional athlete would consent to have the handle of a whip inserted into his butt?


I am The Replacement Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"...who made my #1 favorite piece of public art, "Group of 4 Trees" at the Chase Manhattan Building in NYC."

This piece has a 'Planet of the Apes' vibe to me.

The Charlton Heston one, of course.


I am The Replacement Laslo.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I assume the artist built into the sculpture some way people can use it for photo portraiture, like those statues-on-a-park-bench, only less obvious.

Michael K said...

Professional sports, like the NBA, are busy marginalizing themselves with idiotic "demonstrations" like the Rams "hands up" and the 49ers Kaepernick. It will be interesting to see the effects if they keep it up.

wildswan said...

I think Piglet is totally out of place at a football stadium. I can imagine the person who told the owner to buy this sculpture taking a malign satisfaction in the idea of a pig statue outside a football stadium (Jocks are pigs) or in the idea of a children's book being illustrated outside a sports stadium (Fans are kids). I picture an embittered wannabe artist soured by contact with great wealth and by his own artistic inability taking satisfaction in making a fool of his patron by satirizing his interest in football and his lack of understanding of art.
But I can't imagine anyone who really likes football and Winnie-the-Pooh - say the father of young children - really liking this juxtaposition. Piglet is a kid's game; major league football is an adult game - what you like about one is not what you like about the other. And Piglet is not about irony and satiric comment or about the Packers.
It's strange how difficult it is to do art about true fun, fashion or sports. Perhaps because they are art already, so it's an image of an image.

Otto said...

We don't build cathedrals anymore in our secular world- it is an anathema.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rehajm said...

There must be an exception (or two) that proves the rule. Somebody, I expect, will suggest a good sporting-themed sculpture. I just can't think of one now.

Taking this opportunity to agree with Chuck. Sports statues are all terrible, as if they got the guy that makes the figures on top of trophies to make colossal bronzes.

Chuck, here's my nomination for best sports statue!

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rehajm said...

(This is actually the best sports statue, but invites arguments about the definition of 'sport')

CWJ said...

"I sometimes think sports arenas are where cities stash the crap they don't want downtown."

???????

It's a downtown arena.

Curious George said...

"rehajm said...
There must be an exception (or two) that proves the rule. Somebody, I expect, will suggest a good sporting-themed sculpture. I just can't think of one now.

Taking this opportunity to agree with Chuck. Sports statues are all terrible, as if they got the guy that makes the figures on top of trophies to make colossal bronzes."

Not this one.

CWJ said...

"I think Piglet is totally out of place at a football stadium."

It's not a football stadium.

chickelit said...

Gustave Eiffel wrought some of most ironic sculpture ever.

Clyde said...

One person's art is another person's WTF!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

wildswan said...

I think Piglet is totally out of place at a football stadium.

What do you think footballs are made out of?

dustbunny said...

Chuck, You have to go back a bit, a sculpture of a discus thrower,
The Discobolus, 460-450 BC

CWJ said...

"Professional sports, like the NBA, are busy marginalizing themselves with idiotic 'demonstrations' like the Rams 'hands up' and the 49ers Kaepernick."

The article isn't at all about demonstra...... Oh, never mind. Strange day at the Althouse comment thread.

Peter said...

If we have a "communal fireplace" today, that "fireplace" surely is ... the Internet?

In any case, we don't seem to live in an age of great (or even good) public art. The reasons for that may be endlessly debatable, but the art objects themselves seem to vary from the common dull/bland/boring (but often very large) to the occasional shock-for-the-sake-of-shock schlock.

wildswan said...

It was built to be the hometown football stadium for the Sacramento Kings which is why the owner of the Kings put up his money and chose the sculpture. Off season it hosts other events. Piglet does not belong there or at Disney World either, if you want my true opinion. But outside a football game it is total incongruity and not enlightening either. Whereas at Disney World as far as I know children like his image. But it is not Piglet's image - it is a Disney redrawing of the image. The real Piglet image wouldn't work there even for children which says it all.

buwaya puti said...

That piglet thing makes no sense at all. My eyes would take it in as just some advertising thingamabob, a billboard or something selling a phone service. The stadium itself, in Sacramento, isnt a terrible building as these things go. I have seen it in many stages of construction as I am there regularly.
The artist deals in manufactured irony, as so many of these guys do. I dont understand the taste for this.

Paddy O said...

It's now about 15 years old, Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles is a new Cathedral that is an actual Cathedral. And it's much more architecturally interesting than the Arena. It's a text of theology as well as a building. Probably reaches as many people too.

The new Sacramento arena is both exciting and controversial. Exciting because it kept the Kings in Sacramento, and it was a big push for revitalization. Controversial for all kinds of reasons including cost. Their old arena, Sleep Train, is in a very open area, making for easy traffic flow and access. The new arena puts a huge burden on local communities, with the team reimbursing Sacramento costs for traffic control, but not the almost equally impacted West Sacramento.

I'm a little sad because I moved to the area last year and live a few miles from the old arena. I was thinking of getting tickets, as I could walk there from my work. But, I'm not going to do that now. Too much hassle. And watching professional sports is a lot more like rooting for corporations than enjoying games. They demand loyalty but give none, always willing to go where the better money is.

I love playing sports, but watching them becomes an exercise in manipulation. I'd rather play in the park with my kids.

Paddy O said...

The agreement for the new arena included the stipulation that the old arena, the perfectly fine Sleep Train née Arco Arena can not host any events anymore. Their last events were circuses last month, both Ringling Bros and Circus Vargas came into town.

So a perfectly fine, if not cutting edge opulent, arena is prevented from being used to keep down competition. Impacting the businesses in the Natomas neighborhood of Sacramento. Such is Sacramento.

Meanwhile, the mayor gets a pie thrown in his face and beats the pie thrower senseless. The pie thrower is charged with assault.

bzzzzz

wildswan said...

When not just the owners (by moving teams) but also the players (by taking a knee) become openly contemptuous of the fans (who have to pay a lot to watch this contempt for themselves) - then where is the "sport" of football going?

None of this happens with the Packers which is just another reason why they're great.

CWJ said...

"It was built to be the hometown football stadium for the Sacramento Kings..."

wildswan, Google Sacramento Kings.

buwaya puti said...

And Sacramento, the city, is monumentally corrupt, just to note that.

Just_Mike_S said...

FFS! First the Indo Arch, then the Baggage Tower and now this. *hides face, slinks away*

Just_Mike_S said...

Not to mention that even if we did have a "communal fireplace" in Sacramento we wouldn't be allowed to use it due to air quality regulations.

Dennis said...

The ostensible goal in art is to lose inhibition. However, art education does little to raise any awareness about the difference between the childlike and the childish.

Sam L. said...

Fool. Money. Disassembly required.

rehajm said...

Fool. Money. Disassembly required.


Fool + Greater Fool = Profit$$$!

whitney said...

Jeff Koons is the perfect artist for these times

Richard Dolan said...

Sacramento clearly deserves what it got -- it may be the only place on earth with more corruption per square inch than Albany. Anyway, hope they like it.

The Dubuffet is a hoot and plays well with (and against) the Nevelson pieces in the square just down and around the corner. Nevelson Plaza is a very rare instance in which the GSA's art program generated something worth viewing, a success attributable in no small measure to the fact that the Nevelsons were bought and installed at the beginning of that program, before it too went the way of the bureaucratic world.

Robert said...

Once again I get the sense that irony is a foreign language here, if understood at all. Koons indeed has “successfully portrayed the lack of substance, the emptying out of contemporary life for a couple of decades.” I would think that’s a significant artistic achievement.

320Busdriver said...

Interesting that Vivek Ranadive is the title of ch 1 in M Gladwells book "David and Goliath."

It's a great anecdote about the software co. owner from Mumbai who knows nothing of basketball and how he coaches his young daughters' team of "nerdy" girls to beat all the best teams in the state by implementing an unorthodox strategy to frustrate their opponents.

I guess he's moved on to bigger courts.

buwaya said...

"Once again I get the sense that irony is a foreign language here, "

Irony is something one should observe in the wild.
It is like discovering the glory of a wild flower, enchanting you with the unlooked for glory of the thing.

Deliberate irony in art is making an imitation in plastic and insisting that it be admired.

buwaya said...

Or making a deliberate imitation of irony in poor photoshop plus Ciccollina.

Give me sincerity. It may end up ironic by accident.