Abstraction and luxury are the guard dogs of the upper class. – Jeff Koons
— Berfrois (@berfrois) February 20, 2012
It’s well worth looking at the fuller context of that awesome Jeff Koons blurb about abstraction and luxury being the guard dogs of the upper class. [most recently tweeted by @berfrois] It comes from a late 1988 interview with Brooks Adams and Karen Marta, who were then working under the name Burke & Hare, which was published in Parkett 19:
I try to be effective as a leader. I’m very interested in leadership. I think that my own work has been helping to direct a dialogue, and it’s been participating in it for quite some time. I’m anteing up the pressure and trying to increase the stakes continually. I’ve found that collectors are my power base. You know, I’m able to work as a function of thier support of my work. I think that they have to have some interest in debasement and its political possibilities, even for their own use. I mean, it really has to be for their own use. I think that I give them a sense of freedom. I don’t think that I’m debasing them and not leaving them a place to go. I’m creating a whole new area for them once they’re feeling free. I see it as my job to keep the bourgeoisie out of equilibrium letting them form a new aristocracy.
I think it’s necessary that the work be bought, that I have the political power to operate. I enjoy the seduction of the sale. I enjoy the idea that my objectives are being met. I like the idea of the political power base of art, but it’s not just a money thing. It has to be a total coordination of everything, and money is a certain percent of it, maybe 20% of it. Look, abstraction and luxury are the guard dogs of the upper class. The upper class wants people to have ambition and gumption because, if you do, you will participate and you’ll move through society into a different class structure. But eventually, through the tools of abstraction and luxury, they will debase you, and they will get your chips away from you.
1988 was right after his Banality show, the Complete Spot Paintings of its day, which opened, outrageously, in three galleries at once in New York [Sonnabend], Berlin [Max Hetzler], and Chicago [Donald Young]. But it was before Made In Heaven, it was before he basically went bankrupt–and nearly took Deitch with him–making his balloon dogs and whatnot. It was a Koonsianism several orders of magnitude less intense that the Koonsianism we see today.
Jeff and Felix sittin’ in a tree. P-A-R-K-E-T-T
His political interpretation also resonates with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ discussion from 1994:
At this point I do not want to be outside the structure of power, I do not want to be the opposition, the alternative. Alternative to what? To power? No. I want to have power. It’s effective in terms of change. I want to be like a virus that belongs to the institution. All the ideological apparatuses are, in other words, replicating themselves, because that’s the way the culture works.