Koons Is Kool

Koons Is Kool

I never thought I'd say this, but Jeff Koons is cool. Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, opening June 27 at the Whitney Museum of American Art (where it runs thru Oct. 19), has turned me around.

I used to think of the American artist (b. 1955) as a charlatan. A flimflam man first, artist second. Too many multiples of ceramic doggies perhaps. No more. The large-scale works on view—well over 100—consistently bemuse with their playfulness, perversity, naughtiness (heed the warning at the entrance of one borderline pornographic gallery, if you're visiting with kids) and joie de vivre. Koons' much vaunted perfectionism is everywhere on display. His skill, which previously I wouldn't have given two cents for, is virtuosic. Stand in front of "Lobster," a cast-aluminum and spray-painted "pool toy," and you'll swear, as I did, it's made of plastic. Throughout the show, I kept asking myself, "How did he do that?" 

This is the last show at the Whitney's Madison Avenue location before the museum moves to the Meatpacking District later this year. What a send-off. Meticulously curated and intelligently and comfortable arranged on four of the museum's five floors (be sure to check out the garden, too), it represents the Whitney at its best and bodes well for the future. As for Koons, he's not yet 60. Many more years of fun and games to come from him.

» Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Ave., at E. 75th St., 212.570.3600, June 27-Oct. 19