Two hundred and ninety four


Louis XIV

1986 by Jeff Koons
The Nasher Collection, Dallas, Texas

Louis XIV joined a host of colourful characters that were all in London, until recently, to once again be ‘stylish and subversive’ in the Victoria & Albert’s Postmodernism exhibition. Wandering through the darkened rooms, the placards made of light boxes and the arrows in fluorescent bulbs, one felt a little like a character from Blade Runner (the opening sequence of which was screened), transported to another world. Constantly accosted by the brilliance of fantastical, futuristic-looking (even now) objects and designs, we are sped light years back into a movement that took the world by storm. Beginning quietly, gathering momentum, and burning out, as many do, when money and the mainstream becomes involved, Postmodernism was a whirlwind and walking through the exhibition is like being caught in the breeze. What is captured perfectly is the element of play; one gathers that the artists, musicians, dancers and the like had a tremendous amount of fun ‘creating’ back when, and the V&A have gone about their exhibition in the same way. They play with the space, to the point of half building oblongs of black cage, onto which is projected various iconic music videos; it’s a bit like being at an ’80s warehouse rave. Jeff Koons’ piece epitomises the decadence of play with the silver sheen of old Louis, together with the Postmodernism openness of not only innovatively looking forward to shock, but also embracing the old by transforming it. This subversion of what has been is what makes Postmodernism so jovial; there is no resentment or rejection of the old, nor a nostalgic obsession. What is entered into is a humourous communication, in which fun is poked, but equally styles and merits recognised. Koons’ urban stainless steel moulding the vanity of Louis’s cascading curls and the stern Royal-ism of his brow is comical in itself, and the replacement of soft stone by hard metal is aptly ‘futuristic’. Koons has recreated the commanding posture of a bust such as this, but jibed at its resonance by making it hollow in metal rather than heavily set in stone. With so many levels of both creation and mimicking, one cannot help being taken into this playful approach to both the new and the old, by the innovation of style shown throughout the exhibition, in everything from ballet to teapots. Postmodernism is always eye-catching, which ultimately is surely half the point of art; it’s no wonder that the rest of the world, the manufacturers and mass-producers alike, wanted to play this game.


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