Lady Gaga Is the Latest Episode in Jerry Saltz's Bad Romance with Jeff Koons

New York magazine's art critic Jerry Saltz enjoys thinking up vicious insults for Jeff Koons, even when he ultimately finds reason to praise the pop artist—but Koons' latest work, a sculpture of Lady Gaga for her new album cover, simply fills Saltz with vitriol. Here's a brief history of the complicated relationship between Saltz's words and Koon's work.

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New York magazine's art critic Jerry Saltz enjoys thinking up vicious insults for Jeff Koons, even when he ultimately finds reason to praise the pop artist—but Koons' latest work, a sculpture of Lady Gaga for her new album cover, simply fills Saltz with vitriol. Here's a brief history of the complicated relationship between Saltz's words and Koon's work.

The Name-Calling

Saltz has taken to coming up with nasty epithets for Koons. For instance:

  • "Idiot savant." — July 2013
  • "a happy hotshot in a suit, serving as crystal meth to big-game-­buying megacollectors and auction ­houses" — May 2013
  • "a self-styled weird Mitt Romney–like family man, a hollowed-out Howdy Doody" — May 2013
  • "the art- world's own private Teletubby" — October 2013

The Praise

Saltz doesn't always go negative on Koons, though his name-calling seems to have gotten creative in recent months, he has also had good words for Koons work.

  • "Whether you like his work or not, Koons allows you to toggle between abstraction and reality like few other contemporary artists." — July 2008
  • "his work retains the essential ingredient that, to my mind, is necessary to all great art: strangeness" — December 2009
  • "The paradoxes and inversions I saw at Zwirner, coupled with Koons’s ability to make art that can seemingly be dismissed as an easy one-liner but then fool the mind, suggests that he still has real phenomenological magic up his sculptural sleeve." — May 2013

The Gaga

In addition to doling out that "Teletubby" insult mentioned above, Saltz found Gaga as a reason to excoriate Koons:

  • "The image looks like a crappy version of a Roy Lichtenstein sculpture or a cheesecake blow-up doll from an old 42nd Street porno shop, or a misogynist Barbara Kruger poster."
  • "Whatever all this neo-Cicciolina bs is all about, graphically it looks like the rinky-dink work of some bottoming-out artist. The thing might have been better if Koons had cast the art world's Lady Gaga — that'd be Larry Gagosian — and placed a ball between his legs. Either way, as Mr. T said, 'I pity the fool.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.