The Serpentine Gallery is a curious institution. On the one hand it is stuck in the middle of Hyde Park and gets treated by the weekend hordes as a glorified toilet; while on the other, current co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist is preparing some heavy-weight exhibitions, most notably a Gustav Metzger retrospective that will kick ass from the end of September. But last night it was the opening of the summer show, a silly season special called Popeye Series by Jeff Koons.
Popeye Series doesn’t interest me. Koons makes exactly the sort of art you’d expect from a former Wall Street commodity broker, the visual equivalent of junk bonds, over-priced trash. Just a tad more entertaining from the perspective of morbid curiosity are the idle rich who flock to be seen at the shows Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones puts on for their benefit. These are the people who bankroll the Serpentine as an institution, and exhibitions by the likes of Koons are payback for their support.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the Serpentine was an enormous queue to get in; waiting in line is fine for those who have just spent the afternoon in Harrods buying fake wings for their lap-dogs, but personally I’ve got better things to do with my time. I quickly figured out there was a scam way to beat the queue via a back entrance. When I got into the party area what immediately caught my attention was a very tall and thin woman wearing a pink diaphanous summer dress and no knickers. Given her size zero figure, this off-the-peg garment was a poor fit but it did make her stand out among the identikit millionairesses.
Inside the gallery there were a lot of people getting very excited by the fact that photographers and a diarist from Art Forum were present. The Eurotrash polluting the place were clearly craving attention of a type they’d be more likely to get at a night club, so it beats me why they bother with events like the Serpentine summer show and the Venice Biennial. I saw a good number of people I know and exchanged greetings with Serpentine staff Sally Tallant and Nicola Lees, writer Paul Buck and assorted artists including Clunie Reid, Cedar Lewisohn and Jonathan Allen. Nonetheless, we were completely outnumbered by girls in very high heels with plumbs falling out of their mouths. Said girls were asking inane questions like: “what is Koons trying to say?” Others didn’t know who he was, and I even heard one woman tell another that: “Poons is wonderful”.
On the whole the culture industry types present and the Eurotrash didn’t mix. The most visible exception to this caused a great deal of puzzlement. Some middle-aged artists asked me if I could tell them the name of the man who had more press photographers interested in him than anyone else. I revealed that the geezer in the red jacket and black jeans was Duggie Fields. My acquaintances thought the name rang a bell but couldn’t place it, so I gave them a quick run down of eighties phenomena like ZG Magazine. My guess was that the photographers were more interested in the Eurotrash ‘babes’ Fields was greeting than the artist himself.
As I left an identikit millionairess was using her mobile to tell her daddy how excited she was by the Jeff Koons exhibition: “I’ll have to ask Andrew what it means, he’ll know!” This particular woman had transformed intellectual vacuity into a fine art. I trust that ‘Andrew’ was able to tell her that art no longer has anything to say, if it ever did, and Jeff Koons is the best proof yet that bourgeois culture is utterly bankrupt. That said, there were hundreds of super-rich people present with blank expressions on their faces. They all looked like they needed a harsh does of reality to jolt them out of their self-satisfied stupor, but they’re not going to get that from a Koons exhibition. All I can say is roll on Gustav Metzger!
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!