NARRATOR: This poster of Darrell Griffith—also known as Dunkenstein—is one of several framed Nike posters that appeared in Koons’s 1985 exhibition, Equilibrium. Koons compares the ball players to “Sirens”—mythological figures who sing so beautifully that they lure sailors to crash on a rocky shore. For the artist, the sports stars have achieved a state as perfect as the one offered by the Equilibrium Tanks. The basketball players’ fame is like the Siren’s song, tempting young men—especially African Americans—to try to use sports to achieve fame, fortune, and the “ultimate state” of stardom. Koons sees this as a parallel to the art world.
JEFFKOONS: I was trying to show with the Sirens, the great deceivers. They were really stand-ins for all the contemporary artists at that time, that are positioning themselves as if they’ve achieved something. That really they’re just using art as a form of social mobility. Using it as social mobility, the way maybe other people at times have used sports or other activities for social mobility.