this issue contains
>> Jeff Koons: Interview
>> A World Full of Multiples: Richard Prince
>> The Art of Shopping
>> Painting at a Rate of 150 Beats per Minute: Michel Majerus

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The Art of Shopping

I shop therefore I am – short and sweet is how the New York-based artist Barbara Kruger formulates it. Consumerism creates identity; after all, advertising takes great care that its wares also transport images. The product world’s seductive gleam as it is staged in advertising’s drama is a challenge contemporary art lives up to. Achim Drucks investigates artists’ views on the temptations of the consumerist society.

Jeff Koons, Lips, 2000,
Deutsche Bank Collection, ©Jeff Koons

It almost seems as though one had landed in the middle of a dream world that is as glamorous as it is dangerous: voluptuously parted lips reach greedily for juicy kernels of yellow corn; fountains of juice and vine-like strands of hair intertwine before a clear blue sky. Eating and being eaten – there’s no escape from this surreal consumerist cosmos. In his series Easyfun-Ethereal, which was exhibited at the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2000, the American artist Jeff Koons attacked the public with advertising’s high-gloss surfaces, details of which he mutated to the point of monstrosity. His dissections of goods and bodies produce fragments that are a cross between fetish and tempting product.

Stuart Davis, Odol, 1924,
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Vermächtnis Mary Sisler (durch Tausch)
und Ankauf, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004

As distant as Koons’ bizarre pop planet might seem – it is also imbedded within a tradition. Artists have been investigating mass cultural phenomena since well before Pop Art, closely studying advertising’s strategies of implementing aesthetic appearance to lend even the most profane article its own special aura. As early as1898, Felix Vallotton depicted thronging customers and abundant displays in the Parisian department store Le Bon Marché.

For his painting of the "cathedral of commerce" (Emil Zola), the Post-Impressionist chose the triptych form typical for altar ensembles to record a multitude of visual impressions. In the nineteen-twenties, Stuart Davis, a painter of the American scene, paid tribute to the cool modernist design of everyday products such as Odol and Lucky Strike . In the late fifties, however, the flawless surfaces of the ads and billboards were already hanging in shreds: with their decollages and torn posters, Raymond Hains and Mimmo Rotella created memento moris of the consumerist society.

Mimmo Rotella, Marilyn, 1963,
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2005

Art’s investigation into the world of consumerism oscillates between celebration and damnation, affirmation and criticism. In the process, it implements advertising methods such as slogans, logos, and their seductive strategies in order to gain attention and get its message across. Similarly, advertising and its name brands have long begun appropriating art’s aura-turned-image.

Silvie Fleury, Untitled, from the series "Happy Clinique", 1998,
Deutsche Bank Collection, ©The Artist

Throughout the nineties, the Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury presented the trophies of her shopping tours in her exhibitions. Art production via credit card: Fleury transforms designer shoes into “feminine Readymades.” Her work oscillates between a superficial game with the aura of high-class products and a subversive commentary on the construction of femininity via fashion and make-up. Yet in broader terms, the fashion industry is a motor for contemporary art. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the architects of the Tate Modern, the Prada flagship store in Tokyo, for instance, is far more reminiscent of a crystalline sculpture than a profane store. The minimalist aesthetic of the Prada displays were immortalized in the photographs of Andreas Gursky, while Miuccia Prada exhibits controversial artists such as Andreas Slominski at her Fondazione.

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