Gagosian Quarterly

October 17, 2014

The last 36 hours:koons at the whitney

It’s a bittersweet weekend for the Whitney Museum of American Art, and for Jeff Koons. After more than a quarter of a million visitors, the artist’s critically acclaimed and much ballyhooed career retrospective comes to an end on Sunday, October 19, before the museum leaves the Marcel Breuer-designed uptown location. (The Whitney’s new location will open next year in New York’s Meatpacking District.) To fête its final few days, the Whitney has announced it will stay open an unprecedented thirty-six hours—from 11am on Saturday to 11pm on Sunday—for the first time in its history. Scott Rothkopf, a curator at the Whitney who has witnessed the pandemonium of the exhibit, speaks to Gagosian’s Derek Blasberg about what to expect at the Koons farewell.

Installation view, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

Installation view, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, editor, and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to being the executive editor of Gagosian Quarterly, he is the head of fashion and beauty for YouTube. He has been with Gagosian since 2014.

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Derek BlasbergWhose idea was it to do the thirty-six hours?

Scott RothkopfThat’s a good question. It wasn’t Jeff’s and it wasn’t mine. We of course wanted to mark the end of the building and the show with some occasion, and one day someone from the programming office, or maybe it was the visitors office said, ‘Why don’t we stay open for the entire last weekend?’ And we thought, Why don’t we?

DBIt reminds me of when I was in high school, and we would have a ‘lock-in.’

SRYes, I did those too. The difference of course is that people are free to come and go. I want to make that clear!

DBHa! But what made a lock-in so appealing was the idea of spending the night at school. Indeed, the idea of spending the night in a museum is novel. There’s even a movie franchise called, Night at the Museum, when everyone gets into all kinds of trouble when the museum is supposed to be closed. Is this similar?

SRWe have a lot of things planned. For example, Jeff will come in at 9pm on Saturday night and sign some books. He never had a book signing, so we thought we’d do it now, and he’ll stick around for some photos. At 11:59pm, I’m going to do a talk and a Q&A about what it took to get this exhibition up and running—I had been working on it with the museum for four years. And then on Sunday morning at 8am, we’ll have some kids programming: sketching booths, touch stations where people can feel some samples of Jeff’s materials, things like that. There’s a stroller tour at 9am Docent tours in the afternoon.

DBWhat’s going to happen between your Q&A and that first kids program, between the hours of 1am to 8am?

SRWe don’t know! It’s a mystery, an experiment. We’ve had these long lines at the museum, which many people were sad about. So maybe we should tell everyone this is an ideal time to come: 3am.

DBWill you and Jeff be there that whole time?

SRI’m not sure about that. He may duck out and then come back. I should probably get some sleep, though I don’t know when that will be. It’ll be hard to pull myself away, and everyone at the museum is excited to see what’s going to happen.

The Last 36 Hours

Installation view, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,  Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

DBLooking back at the show, do you have any particular highlights?

SRI’m going to think about this show for the rest of my life. And don’t forget that after the Whitney it’s going to move on to the Pompidou in Paris, and then to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. What I was really unprepared for was the outreach of the exhibition. Not just ticket sales, but also how the whole thing unraveled online and in social media. All of the reflective surfaces in his show: they are perfect selfie objects! Even though they are from a proto-selfie era. The response among artists and the public, and even the art critics has been incredible. And what has been great is that we’re able to see the spectrum of work, and how the early pieces hold up against the later ones, which you don’t always find in a retrospective.

DBNo real surprises, then?

SRThe surprises were good ones. For example, we were a little worried if the Play-Doh would be completed in time, because it was over twenty years in the making, and if we’d get the Liberty Bell in there. But we did!

DBIt sounds like an exciting weekend, but also perhaps with a tinge of sadness since it means the show is over.

SRBut what a wonderful closing. It actually feels more like a launch, especially for the museum. The Koons show lit the rocket boosters that are going to launch the museum to its new space. This is a great moment for everyone. Jeff and I were talking about it today: This has been an all-consuming project for both of us. We’re happy with the response and how it turned out, but we still have to wonder: Will there ever be a show about Jeff Koons that’s this big? He’ll have more shows, sure, and he’ll create more work, but this is something special.

DBSo, that’s what you’ll be thinking about this weekend.

SRI’ll also be thinking about Monday morning because at 8am, guess what we get to do: start moving everything out of there. But, I will say that we’re a bit calmer about that, because we know if we got them in there, we can get them out.

Artwork © Jeff Koons. Photos by Ron Amstutz. Jeff Koons: A Retrospective is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

Josh Kline, Skittles, 2014, commercial fridge, lightbox, and blended liquids in bottles, 86 ½ × 127 ½ × 41 inches (219.7 × 323.9 × 104.1 cm) © Josh Kline. Photo:  © Timothy Schenck

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