Art of the Times, Pt. 2
The other story that caught my eye in the New York Times over the last few days was the news that Jeff Koons would be curating a significant show, incuding much of his own work, at the New Museum in New York. Which is novel, I suppose, and not a terrible idea; but the fact is that Koons is curating exclusively from the collection of Greek shipping magnate Dakis Joannou, who, with 40-plus Koons, happens to be one of the artists' biggest patrons.
It's not hard to see where the calls of impropriety are coming from -- and why the story landed on the front page; in the post-financial crash world, the art market tumbled heavily, causing many collectors to take a bath on high-priced superstars like Koons. A museum show is a stamp of approval, and affects secondary market prices significantly. Simply put, the fear is that Joannou is indulging in some Saatchi-esque marketing in having the freedom to install his own collection in a museum -- particularly so when he happens to be a trustee.
Needless to say, Joannou is deflecting such notions, as is the museum; and the collection, which includes big bodies of work by Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Robert Gober, Kiki Smith as well as Koons, is worthy of a public exhibition. And to be fair, many museums, including the AGO, show work from prominent patrons.
But there are rules to these things, if loose ones, meant to keep institutions free from market manipulation, at least of the actual works they're showing. The Whitney, for example, only does it on the pre-condition that the works shown will be donated, removing the concern that the patron is using them as a marketing platform. The AGO has had that relationship with the Thomsons for years. Not so in this case, where Joannou will retain ownership of the works -- at least until he takes them to auction. Any bets on when that will happen?