Now that Christian Viveros-Faune has slammed Jeff Koons’ "Made in Heaven" series in the Village Voice (even ridiculing dealer Amalia Dayan for giving him a personal tour of the revived show in her uptown townhouse) and Roberta Smith has laid waste to the same body o’ work in the New York Times, even boldly recycling the old whispers that that’s not Jeff’s handle in the Cicciolina bandle, I must rise to the defense of "Made in Heaven."
I first saw Koons’ erotofarce in the famous Sonnabend show two decades ago. The show came about specifically because Koons, for all his success at the time, allegedly could not get laid, due to his good personality. Many was the time I myself observed Koons in the late 1980s goofily hitting on young women at Fanelli’s during the cocktail hour with the surefire line, "Hi! I’m Jeff Koons and I am a famous artist."
The girls would not only not respond, they would pretend Jeff wasn’t even there! In response, Koons did what Koons does: he appropriated another artist’s work. Specifically, Koons stole the act, pictures and style of Ilona Staller in her La Cicciolina role. At the time, Ilona was running for a seat in the Italian parliament and was prominently featured in Penthouse and other soft-core U.S. media. Her act in the U.S. market was just that, soft-core, with Ciccie posing in various states of undress next to a nude guy, semi-aroused, sans penetration.
Ilona, out of respect for the Vatican or the Rome fuzz or whatever, always emphasized the non-hardcore nature of her "art." Koons ripped off her imagery down to the last nipple, married Ilona and then advanced the ball, so to speak, by going X, a la Madonna’s book Sex in overall theme. And he did it to prove to his friends that, somewhere, sometime, he could get laid.
A big part of Ilona Staller’s anger at Koons during their child custody case was Koons’ lengthy testimony that Staller was an unfit mother because of her "hardcore" porn background. Well, who (maybe fakely?) forced her into hardcore? Before that, Ilona was just a maid in the glen!
The significance of "Made in Heaven" is, like all of Koons, that Jeff is a prophet, his goofy digit always probing the zeitgest. Our manufactured world is awash in made-up hardcore simulated by professional thespians in Hollywood bungalows. Who heralded this first? Jeff Koons. "Made in Heaven." ’Nuff said.
Jeff Koons, "Made in Heaven Paintings," Oct. 5, 2010-Jan. 21, 2011, at Luxembourg & Dayan, 64 East 77th Street, New York, N.Y. 10075.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).