Jeff Koons and Stephen Colbert Trade Art Criticisms


Artist Jeff Koons and satirist Stephen Colbert explored various schools of art criticism last night on Comedy Central.

Transforming his typical comedic solipsism into a self-reflexive school of criticism, Colbert began, “I tell you what I like about your work. A lot of ‘em are shiny. You know? So when I look at them, I can see me. And then I’m really interested in it.”

Koons had no argument with this. Alluding to a Duchampian view in which the viewer completes the artwork combined with his own signature feel-good mantras, Koons asserted, “The art happens inside you, the viewer. The art is your sense of your own potential as a person. That’s where the art is.”

Koons was there to promote Studio in a School, a nonprofit that brings professional artists into New York City schools. Showing a figurative drawing by a student, Colbert pursued a formalist, technique-based critique: “Can you draw like that?” Koons maintained that he could.

Following an economic-history approach in which Colbert focused on the market appeal of Koons’s work, the talk-show host also pursued a psychoanalytic tack: “Why so many balloon dogs? Did a clown take it away from you as a child or something, and you’re trying to get it back so it’s permanent now?”

“We’re balloons,” Koons replied, espousing a symbolic interpretation, and suggesting that inhaling stands for optimism and exhaling evokes death.

“Thanks for cheering us up, Jeff,” Colbert concluded.