NARRATOR: One of the works in Banality, which Koons called Amore, is based on a stuffed doll dressed in a teddy bear costume.
SCOTTROTHKOPF: What’s so odd about a sculpture like this is that you’re meant to hug a stuffed animal. It’s meant to be lovable, a doll. Yet here, he’s made this object that’s reaching out to you, that’s saying “I love you” on its sticker, hard to imagine holding. It’s rough on its surface. It’s literally made hard. It’s no longer cuddly, but a little bit repellant, almost. Maybe it wants to be loved too much.
I recognize that for Koons, one of the starting places of the series was his desire to free us from the shame or the guilt of the bad taste that we might have had in terms of our affection for the toys of our childhood. The kinds of art that we were taught not to like. I’m not certain that these objects, necessarily, will do that for all of the viewers.
In fact, some of the things that I think he encourages us to find appealing in this body of work can also perform a slightly different function.
The quality of taking things that seem cute, and turning up the volume on their cuteness, or charm, so loud that they no longer function in the way that their original creators had in mind, is something that in a way is what turns them into art, for me.
NARRATOR: Banality was extremely controversial when Koons first exhibited it. To hear about critical reaction to the show, please tap the button.