(In case you were wondering: no, you did not miss out on part 1 – I just thought I’d jump to part 2, because part 1 takes a lot of deep thoughts and I’m not done sorting them out yet as I’m busy with my life and having a good time)…

My mother and I visited the Jeff Koons exhibit at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland this week. Two years ago we had the privilege of visiting Koons’ studio on the west side of Manhattan, thanks to an artist friend of mine who works there.  Our trip to Basel was a great full circle experience to our studio visit.

In the exhibit’s first hall many vacuum cleaners were on display.  This to me was amusing and I could appreciate the installation within the context of the artist’s work: the elevation of a common every-day article to art by juxtapositioning many vacuums against each other and giving them new meaning.  My mother was a bit puzzled at the room and I tried to explain by referencing Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, who nearly 100 years earlier had taken everyday articles, such as a toilet bowl, and made it art by installing it upside-down on a gallery wall and naming it Fountain. Or, by putting marble sugars cube in a bird cage (my personal favorite), and called it Why Not Sneeze, Rose Selavy. Doubly funny because “Selavy” is the phonetic spelling of “c’est la vie”: that’s live.  

Marcel Duchamp – Why Not Sneeze, Rose Selavy
Jeff Koons – New Hoover

But I digress.  My mother saw vacuums, first and foremost.  The first and maybe too easy explanation would be that she, as a stay-at-home mom, saw the vacuum as a regular “tool of her trade”.  But my mother is well traveled and very sophisticated when it comes to art and culture. 

I suspect that my generation (x) has learned to see life within context.  We understand content, but we also have learned context.  The generations born after us (y, millennia, etc.), I would venture to guess, live squarely within context and see content at the margins.  

Today, context in a world of increasing globalization and virtualization is a given, but the world of my parents (born in the early 1930ies and 40ies), I would venture to guess, that is not so. 

We both however could unreservedly fall in love with Jeff Koons picture below, Balloon Dog because beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder and after all she raised me to appreciate the beautiful things in the world and we do share some DNA….

P.S.: check out the link to a spot currently running on Swiss TV. It makes another valid point, if in Swiss-German.

Jeff Koons – Baloon Dog


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