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Jeff Koons’ “Skin Fruit” vs. Shaq’s “Size Does Matter - artnet Magazine

Ben Davis tallies up the points of each show. 12:35 pm


I highly recommend this Artnet Magazine review of these two shows. Mr. Ben Davis, after introducing the #1 - ranked Art Contender in the world, with the possible combined unified titles of; Number One Artist, Number One Artist/Collector and Number One Celebrity/Artist/Curator, Mr. Jeff Koons, New York’s own Triple Threat- “Mr. Unbelievable”, versus, the, as yet curatorially unranked, however much more universally well-known, and beloved by fans, big and small the world over, that Fearless Art World Upstart, The Dark Art Horse, The Thousand This to One Longshot, The Rocky Balboa-Type Mr. Blood and Guts Art Curation, Shaquille O’Neal. Mr. Davis gaves the fighters their final instructions, no low blows, “And, oh yeah: On top of this common obsession with size, both shows’ titles also contain a reference to dicks.”

After that critic turned referee Ben Davis fearlessly hops into the ring with these twin gargantuans in their respective fields and gives us a blow-by-blow recapitulation of four distinct rounds of very thoughtful and extremely well-informed curatorial judging. Round 1: Artists Selected, Round 2: Organization, Round 3: Ego and Round 4: Overall Impression…. of both shows. And from the very start it is an extremely exciting contest. His review had me on the edge of my seat. At this point I’m forced to admit that I haven’t seen either one of these shows yet, however reading this review, I’m extremely excited and motivated to go see them both, in one day, as soon as possible? Because, without this review, I would’ve thought it would be a no contest? Shaq, as the over the hill, slaphappy palooka Rocky Balboa in “Rocky” compared to Jeff Koons’s undisputed World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed, who has the unconditional backing of the art world’s answer to the flamboyant boxing promoter Don King, Uber Collector, and New Museum Board Bember Dakis Joannou, as his manager, trainer, corner and cut man? (Don’t get in that ring Shaq, is not a contest -- it’s suicide!)

So, even after 17 brutal years in the NBA, Shaq, massively overmatched, institutionally, financially, curatorially, and let’s face it artistically! But with the eye-of-the-tiger, and with super-human bull-like determination, he answers the bell at every round, and even though in the early rounds is taking a brutal institutional punishing at the hands of a much larger exhibition space. Yet, he steadfastly refuses to stay down, even when repeatedly knocked down, eventually he begins to use his secret weapon, “the rope a trope”, an artistic variant of Mohamed Ali’s successful “rope a dope”, relentlessly absorbing these withering punches from Koons, The King of All Art, Shaq's “the rope a trope,” (or meme, a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena) starts to wear on the exquisitely institutionally conditioned counterpuncher Koons, because as Ben Davis notes early on, “The two spectacles, indeed, have a remarkably similar feel. In both cases, ironic post-conceptual sculpture is front and center, along with a fair amount of painting and photography of a slick, media-smart type. Partly this just reflects the taste represented by the respective collections that Shaq and Koons are working from…” And Shaq, like Rocky, proves that heart is as strong as talent when it comes to taste. Or something like that?

Spoiler Alert: In the end it’s not even a split decision, Art Referee Ben Davis rates the contest a Draw! Which, in and of itself, is one of the most shocking outcomes ever expected for this type of Cash of The Titans? The art bookies must be sick with disbelief? A Draw? Doesn’t that automatically call for a rematch, which, considering the shellacking that both brawlers took in this contest, they'd be fools to accept?

And a lot has been said, and whispered, murmured and shouted about how this fight was rigged, the fix was in, it was nothing more than a big payday for the boxing promoter, I mean major collector? But here we have another exquisite example of The Revenge Of Art History? I think everybody wins; the foundation, the museum, the collector, the artist/curator, and even Shaq. In the words of that Tom Petty song, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

However, even though I shouldn't prejudge the outcome before I see the fight, I think that Ben Davis was maybe too kind to rate it a Draw. I think on the most subjective pop cultural round, Round 3: Ego, Shaq probably won that one t too? So Shaq was robbed as deserves a rematch. But we learned that still undisputed reigning champ of the art, Jeff Koons, though bloodied but unbowed, still has a reputation of such length and girth as to cast an epic priapic shadow over the entire art world, yet he remains the extremely polite and thoughtful champion he has grown to be.

Douglas Kelley // 13 Mar 2010, 11:27 pm