The sculptures and paintings of this fifty-nine-year-old artist are so meticulously, mechanically polished and groomed that they rebuff any attempt to look at them, much less feel anything about them.
But four paragraphs later:
Koons knows how to capitalize on the guilty pleasure that the museumgoing public takes in all his mixed messages. He knows how to leave people feeling simultaneously ironical, erudite, silly, sophisticated, and bemused.
Does Koons make people feel things, or does he not? Or are irony, erudition, silliness, sophistication, and bemusement feelings that don’t count as feelings?
Jed Perl writes well but I find his judgment strange. About Jeff Koons I have no opinion. But I remember his name because of the piece he wrote about Francis Bacon, which seems to suggest that people like Bacon not because of anything in the paintings, but because the artist sports a biography and attitude that appeals to mushy-minded would-be avant-gardists. “The Bacon mystique,” Perl writes, “is not grounded in his paintings so much as in a glamorous list of extenuating circumstances.”
To me this makes no sense. I went to a small museum which was showing some of Bacon’s paintings and I was knocked over by them. Whoa, what is that? I had no idea who he was, or whether he was glamorous, or whether it was cool to like him.
I think it’s OK to say (as Perl also does, later in that piece) that Bacon is a stupid painter and only people who are stupid about painting like his paintings. But it’s crazy to deny that people actually do like Bacon’s paintings, as such, not just the idea of Bacon’s paintings, or the idea of being the kind of person who likes Bacon’s paintings.