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AMERICAN IDOL

WHAT COULD BE MORE ICONIC than Michael and Bubbles, or Cicciolina’s white garter, or that raptor-like stainless-steel bunny and that engorged balloon dog? In reality, everything and nothing: The creator of these entities never simply adopts the generic symbols of our time but produces ciphers and substances that seem perpetually new and forever foreign, despite the hyperbolic fame they may acquire. Perhaps the most influential—and controversial—artist of our time, JEFF KOONS makes things that stay strange.
 
On the occasion of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s major survey of his work, the first that Koons has enjoyed in his adopted hometown, Artforum asked art historian and critic THOMAS CROW to assess the exhibition’s synoptic view, while six artists, each from a generation after Koons’s, reflect on his outsize impact—an effect that is strikingly polemical and everywhere felt but difficult to pin down.

Jeff Koons, Inflatable Flowers (Short Pink, Tall Purple), 1979, vinyl, mirror, acrylic, 16 × 25 × 18". From the series “Inflatables,” 1978–79.

IN ITS FINAL MONTHS on Madison Avenue, the Whitney Museum of American Art has signed off with two exhibitions of distinctly contrasting character. For the last Biennial in the Marcel Breuer edifice, the museum dispersed and outsourced its organization to three curators, each of whom mounted a crowded show on one of three floors. Reviewing the exhibition in these pages, Helen Molesworth found that this multiplication of personnel seemed to reduce rather than augment the curatorial acumen in evidence: Where, she wondered, have all the sight lines gone?

No such doubts attend the succeeding show, the much-anticipated Jeff Koons retrospective, a signature statement that the premier museum of American art must offer the definitive account of the most visible contemporary American artist. To embark on the exhibition’s itinerary is immediately to be gripped by a sight line as spare and

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