NARRATOR: Michael Jackson and Bubbles, on view in the center of the room, is one of Koons’s best-known works.
SCOTTROTHKOPF: It’s hard for me to imagine a portrait or depiction of a celebrity or a personality that feels more resonant in the contemporary age.
At the time that Koons made this sculpture, Jackson, like Koons, in fact, was the most famous figure in his field. He was adored by millions of fans around the world. He was seen like a god. I think that this sculpture presents him as such. He’s idealized. His skin is smooth. He is surrounded by flowers that may be offerings from adoring fans or religious devotees. He’s holding his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, in a pose that’s reminiscent of the famous depiction of The Pietà where Michelangelo shows the Virgin Mary holding Christ after his crucifixion.
NARRATOR: The works in this room are from Koons’s 1986 exhibition Banality. Koons has often described the series as a challenge to the notion that modern art must be difficult—that appreciation is something the art audience must learn. Focusing on a figure as wildly popular as Michael Jackson, for example, directly refutes these notions. If you’d like to hear Koons discuss this aspect of Banality, please tap the button to continue.