hooke·y (ho͝okē) noun informal.
1. to stay away from school or work without permission or explanation.

I take very few things in life seriously, least of all my work. I’m conscientious about keeping a job. I have responsibilities. Plus, I need to fund the things that DO interest me. But I’ve never been one of those career-driven success stories. I envy people like that. I wish I could have embraced a white collar profession, but things like medicine, law, management and high finance bore me to tears. Those things require a significant time commitment and a lot of personal sacrifice. I have a slacker’s heart.

I called in sick in order to view the Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum. I told them I had food poisoning. How immature is that? Try to imagine someone who owns his own business or a senior executive in an asset management firm calling in sick to visit an art museum. It just wouldn’t happen. It’s irresponsible. It’s bizarre behavior for someone my age. Why am I blogging about this, anyway?

However, that being said, the Koons career retrospective is special. The Whitney is closing to relocate downtown and they’re going out with a bang. They turned the entire museum over to Koons. It’s unprecedented. I certainly don’t like all of his work but I thought the show was interesting enough to do something as childish as faking an illness. Kak-kak.

Back in the 90’s I didn’t have a lot of respect for Koons. I thought he was much better marketer than artist. Since then, I got over my bad ass self and enjoy some of his pieces because they’re fun, which is what I think he intended all along.

This is Balloon Dog (Yellow) from the Celebration series of the exhibit. Koons made five of these, each one a different color.

yellow-dog2Last November, Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at a Christie’s auction for $58.4 million. This one is owned by hedge fund scumbag Steven Cohen of SAC Capital.

This is his latest piece, finished just before the Whitney show opened. It’s a giant, steel sculpture of Play-Doh.

playdohPlay-Doh purportedly took 20 years to complete. He’s a perfectionist and was looking for the exact right color and texture. His poor assistants!

Across the room from Play-Doh is Hanging Heart (Violet/Gold), a 9-foot tall polished steel heart.

heartBalloon Dog, Play-Doh and Hanging Heart are all in the same gallery. It’s like walking into a riot of color and over-sized familiar shapes.

About a month ago I did a post that included Split Rocker, the Koons summer outdoor installation at Rockefeller Center.

split-rocker1The child’s rocker that was used as a model for these giant pieces was included in the Whitney show in the Easyfun series.

split-rocker2Koons has a thing with superheros. Who doesn’t? This is Popeye. It was on display in the courtyard just outside the Whitney cafeteria (where spinach isn’t served).

popeye1A version of this statue was purchased this past May by casino magnate Steve Wynn for $28 million. Is that all?

This is Hulk (Organ). It’s a fully functional pipe organ.

hulkIt couldn’t be played because it only has one volume—very loud. The literature said it’s as loud as a helicopter. What a tease!

Speaking of tease. There was a room full of sculptures from his Banality series that included his most famous piece, Michael Jackson and Bubbles.

banalityBefore I saw the exhibit, I was thinking that it’d be fun to bring the daughters into the city and see Balloon Dog and Play-Doh. Then I saw these.

banality2In 2011, the Pink Panther sold for $16.9 million, which was considered a huge disappointment. The estimate had been $20-30 Million. The front of the sculpture can be seen here. There’s some pornographic imagery as well.

crystal-statueThere are also giant prints of Koons nude with his then wife, Italian porn “actress”-turned politician La Cicciolina. Do you think 8-years old is too young to see Koons’ penis? I do.

You may have thought the previous pieces were preposterous but wait until you see these beauties. Here’s a gallery full of vacuum cleaners in lighted plexiglass cases. It’s from his The New series he did in 1980.

vacuum-cleaners2It defies commentary although I’m certain there’s a high-minded explanation for this.

This is from the Inflatables and Pre-New section. They’re…umm…a toaster and a whistling tea kettle mounted on lights. I was sending pics to my friend and he said, “You took off work for this?!”


“I yam what I yam.”popeye2

Me too, brother.

80 thoughts on “hookey

  1. I’m not much of a museum-goer, but I’d enjoy visiting an exhibit like that just for its differentness (though I could do without the groping Pink Panther…). Doubt I’d call in sick for it though. In fact, even when I was sick, I didn’t call off work. I probably should have. Then maybe I wouldn’t have got so burned out from the job. 😉

    Bet the playdough one looked cool up close.

  2. This is where you and I part company, and just when I was thinking about adopting your whole family. Koons is a charlatan, a clever maker (and I’m not so sure that he makes them as opposed to instructing minions to create them) of Disneyesque objects, the best of which couldn’t command more than $1000.00 (and that would be to compensate him for the materials) if the art world hadn’t gone completely insane. I don’t think that I’m any kind of expert but a balloon dog, and I don’t care what it’s made of, (unless it’s solid gold) could ever draw a higher price than the clown at a recent street fair was paid for exactly the same thing – $3.00 is a clear indication that the inmates are running the asylum. Rant out.

    • He’s a complete fake! I agree 100%. He’s been successfully sued in court. He’d steal a photographic image, make a statue out of it and call it a departure from the original. The judge didn’t agree and neither do I. I still like looking at it, though. The wholesale theft of ideas started in earnest with Warhol. People will pay for it so they’ll keep doing it. There’s really no end to it.

      Loved the rant! More please! My family will be crushed by the news.

  3. I would take a sick day to watch soap operas. I hate soap operas. Might say something about me or my job, not sure which, but I always wanted to be Ferris Bueller. Better, I figure, to play hookey now and then instead of just sitting at work and pretty much calling it in… which brings up the interesting point of how much blogging I’ve done at work. It’s not really that interesting a topic I suppose, but hey, I’m relatively sober, sopping wet, and likely to be electrocuted shortly. Now there’s a blog topic for after coffee break tomorrow.

    I’m glad you showed the balloon animal dog first, it’s the one that caught my eye. I don’t fully get it, but I would have grabbed onto that one I think, even if it hadn’t been first. The pink panther one… just weird.

    • Trent, you are the MAN. You’d do this and feel no guilt whatsoever. That’s the sound of one hand clapping. Where can I get some of that? I think it’s this rotten Catholic guilt that’s eating my guts. Really, who am I hurting? It was a slow week because of the impending holiday.

      The new job I acquired in May puts up a fierce firewall against all blogs. My last job wasn’t so stiff-assed about it and I’d blog from work all the time. Not anymore.

      • Well, I’d feel some guilt I guess. At my present job, I get no vacation, because I own a piddly number of shares. I get to take vacation whenever I want, but because it’s so busy I never really do. So I guess I’m allowed to play hookey, to some extent. Trust me, my guilt complex is alive and well, especially about blogging at work… which I’ve totally stopped. It just wasn’t right. Your company’s probably got it right.

  4. La Cicciolina offered to sleep with Saddam Hussein if he would withdraw his forces from Kuwait, which was a more creative idea than any of her husband. I like the expression on Pink Panther’s face, but it’s copied from the cartoon show. I hope the Chinese make a million replicas of that sculpture which sell for 50 bucks.

    • I completely forgot about the generous offer La Cicciolina made to the mad dictator. Surprising that he didn’t take her up on it and thereafter continued to ravage Kuwait. That would have been so funny!

      The Chinese aren’t tacky enough to produce that mess. And that’s saying something!

    • Can you imagine if I had to explain to my wife why I’m home in the middle of the day? That I lost my job in the dumbest way possible? Work is unaware that my blog exists and it’s going to stay that way. I’ve never once told anyone I’ve worked with about it and I’m not going to start now.

  5. We were at DIA:Beacon over the weekend, where I reinforced my lack of understanding of modern art.
    Yes, they had the plain white canvases on the wall.
    No idea how that’s art.

      • The sculptures were mostly 3D representations of technical drawing isometrics. There were a bunch of sculptures made of compressed and folded automobile panels and fenders that was…unusual.

        Also, someone named Blinky had a bunch of small panels with a solid color, and a different color top or side border.
        Or as my wife described it, Intro To Art color studies.

        One room had the bottom half of one wall painted blue, and the opposite wall painted blue on the top half.

        I just don’t get it.

      • I’ve seen those compressed auto sculptures. There was a pretty big show in a Chelsea gallery not long ago. They’re by a guy named John Chamberlain. They are, as you said, interesting. Nothing I’d want in my front yard, though.

        That stuff might be baffling (because it is!) but I still think it’s worthwhile to go out and visit it. Especially at a place like Dia. A unique experience. Hope the drive was okay.

  6. As I commented previously on one of your posts. I am not a Koons fan. I can’t get past the un-artsiness of his “works.” I think it’s all talentless trash, but each to his/her own opinion. But I often wonder how he gets past the copyright issues, e.g. “Play-Doh.” Glad you gave yourself a day off and did what you felt like doing, though. Everyone needs/deserves a “mental health day” away from the office. Spending it all at the Koons exhibit makes me questions YOUR mental health, Mark! LOL!

    • I completely see your point. He provided free audio guides for the exhibit. You should hear him prattle on in art-speak. Oh, my.

      I’m happy to have your seal of approval. The more people who tell me it’s okay, the more “normal” it makes me feel. You kind of spoiled it with that dig at my mental health, though. Your comment is a negative sum gain.

  7. Oh, I love the balloon dog! I think this was worth a sick day. Who would be so crazy to make a statue of Play-Doh? You have to see it to believe it. Isn’t is ironic that some hedge fund scumbag has one of those dogs. He probably doesn’t even appreciate it. I get working to do the stuff you like. I wish I could have been a lawyer or something fancy, but like you, I don’t think I could ever get excited about that. Good for you to enjoy life! I love seeing all this art. This is the closet I get to going to an art museum.

    • I think that subconsciously (or, perhaps, not so subconsciously) I put all this out there hoping people would flock to the post and say, “Oh, this is a fine idea. You’re not crazy at all.” I am all about fishing for validation. I’m so transparent.

      I can find merit in most of these pieces I posted but, take my word for it, there was some real crap on display, too. As I mentioned, some of it was downright pornographic. And I find ALL the valuations obscene.

      • Mark, you’re just attracted to high-minded activities like viewing art in art museums. I think life is so short, better to enjoy it. Americans have a strange relationship with work, and we do too much of it. So there, there’s some validation for you!

        The pornography doesn’t really bother me, although I wouldn’t want my kids to see it just yet. The pink panther was our mascot when I was on gymnastics team! This display is kind of interfering with that memory, just a touch.

      • I’m not an advocate of labeling it as high-minded. That turns a lot of people off and makes it appear like an elitist activity. Power to the people!

        Call me crazy but I don’t want to see a GIANT blow-up of Jeff Koons’ package. I saw Ian McKellen in King Lear. In the middle of the play, to show how ‘insane’ the King had become, McKellen picked his robe up over his head and exposed himself to the audience. Same thing… I didn’t need to see that! It took me right out of the story.

  8. Sure, it’s interesting, Mark. I think it’s fine that you faked sick for it. Koons doesn’t take himself too seriously, except for his price tag and his package, so what the hell. Play-doh, Popeye and his penis all in one hall. That’s diversity for you.

    • I wonder if my boss would think it’s fine for me to fake a sickness and take a day off? To be perfectly honest, I don’t think she’d have a problem. with is. Mind you, I’m not about to march into her office and find out, but I don’t think there’d be an issue. How about you? Would your new boss let you take a fuck-off Friday?

      Koons could have killed two birds with one stone and made a giant penis out of Play-Doh. I wonder if that ever occurred to him?

      • I think the fake-sick think all revolves around the issue of earned days, no? If you’ve been at a place long enough to have them, if you say you’re sick, you are. If not, doctor’s note. Me? In my eighth week? Although my boss has proved to be great, I’m hired through a temp service. I have no days, period.

      • I was in the exact same boat for about five years. No sick days. No vacation days. Nothing. Free Cokes in the fridge and an hourly wage. That was about it. But I made it work and so can you.

      • I know I can. Right now I have my iPad out reading WP comments on my lunch hour as I eat two slices of Pavone’s Pizza. Life is OK this second, you know?!

  9. Your days playing hookey remind me of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”… if you haven’t seen it, you probably should. Maybe take another day off for it?

    Will the Koons exhibit still be open through mid-October? i think i could deal with this bit of gallery hopping!

    • Who hasn’t seen Ferris Bueller? Wasn’t it a requirement back then? I cant’s wait until the girls are old enough for it.

      The Koons exhibit runs through Oct 19. It’s been packed. So popular, in fact, the Whitney decided to open on Mondays, their traditional day off, to accommodate the masses. I think there might be extended hours as well.

      • May have to skip the Whitney…. crowds aren’t my thing. i had noted that your photos did not have people in them… you were either there very early, or are good with timing and cropping!

      • I am always there when they first open the doors for stuff like this because a crowd can really ruin the experience. Where you’re here, it’ll be near the end of the exhibit so it’ll be packed.

        No worries. I think there are a few other things in the city to do ;-). Will you have time for a show?

  10. Cool display Mark. Definitely worth playing hookey. I once worked in a large workplace (5,000 employees) that had an unwritten “well-day” policy. If an employee was dependable and hard-working, supervisors could authorrize an unpaid day for whatever purpose the employee wanted. I once gave a good worker a day off to see a Star Trek premiere. Paid time had to be taken from vacation days. It worked well and I only ever had 3 employees ask in a period of 5 years – and they all got it and none abused it. Most of our employees did not want to miss work – absenteeism in trucking is rare in some workplaces (non-union).

    The Koons stuff is neat. I just enjoy it because of the perspective – taking something everyone takes for granted, and displaying it as art is cool. I don’t mind the pornographic side either – although I think that mermaid is a bit more than the Pink Panther is able to handle. Ha! I mean when you take any common object and look at its development history and the ideas and work and brain farts that go into it – some taking years or hundreds of years to get to the present incarnation- it is pretty cool. Like the toaster – the history of the development of the steel; the mining and processing it takes to get to the useable form; the chrome, where it comes from how it came to be; the electricity, generation and discovery and the copper in the wire likely coming from another continent and how it got here; even the wire insulation, the development, the application, the properties. It is mind boggling. It took hundreds and in some cases thousands of years of iterative development to produce what we take for granted. If you traced each part and process in a toaster (including the equipment to produce it) through time , you would likely end up finding that 100,000 people or more had a hand somewhere in the last thousand years in producing that $20. item. It is worth putting it on a pedestal and thinking about it.

    I really don’t agree with the pricing – that is nuts. Millions for no purpose ither than to say you have it. That to me, is really a statement of how F**ked up our world is – while children die of starvation or related diseases at the rate of one every thirty seconds. How can anyone justify the prices for this art? We are crazy. Anyway, that’s a rant for another day. That’s my story and i’m sticking to it.\\Thanks for the post Mark – and the pics: they are great. I wouldn’t have ever seen this art unless you had posted it. And a “well” day should be required for all the cranked up, stressed out corporate types.

    • A well-day? What a fantastic policy! Do you know how much good will that could generate amongst the worker bees? I wouldn’t have had to sneak around and hope I didn’t get caught. An excellent policy.

      I don’t mind the pornography myself. I didn’t find it all that titlating, although I don’t think that was his intent. I’m sore that I can’t bring my girls in to see this because of it. It’s someting that would have stuck in their tiny, young minds.

      Your toaster analysis is better than any of the art-speak mumbo-jumbo that was provided by the museum. Nice way to break it all down and make it accessible and interesting. You’re a hell of a writer. Your “rants,” as you call them, are the best in the biz.

    • Aw, fiddlesticks. Any day off via a fabricated illness is a good day off via fabricated illness. What you do with it is secondary.

      Of all these pieces, I see Hanging Heart in your living room. Certainly not giant lumps of Play-Doh made if steel!

      • Not gonna lie, I was pretty damn fascinated by the play doh one though.

        I took my boss a doctor’s note and when he saw it was from the lady doctor, he actually dropped it, put his hands up like I’d pulled a gun on him and when I started laughing, he made the sign of the cross.

      • I can’t say I a agree with his reaction—remember, I have a house full of women and a sister who teaches gender studies—but I understand the place it where comes from. Tell him to take it like a man.

  11. I’ve pulled the occasional sickie. Once, a few of us went to the races (horses, that is) and one of the girls actually phoned in from the track – the boss could hear the race caller in the background!

    Thank you for telling/showing us us this.Just don’t do it again, OK?

  12. I was just sitting here reminiscing about this and that and then a memory came creeping into view. It was of a young Blogger who was bemoaning the fact the he had so few responses to his work that he was thinking of chucking it all in and becoming an accountant. That last bit may not be true. But look at him now ( I won’t name the blogger to spare his blushes ) , regularily garnering in the mid sixty to mid seventy responses PER POSTING..I’m just glad you hung in there my friend. ( In an unscientific survey by professionals it was determined that for every response there are 5.375 other readers who are technically just not up to the job of formulating a reply.)

    • Thank you, very much, for the reminder. It’s true that I derive a lot of satisfaction out of the fact that people read this stuff. Buddha said I shouldn’t look outside my own head for happiness but what do you want from me? I’m only human. I spent my whole life going to museums, attending theater and concerts, etc., etc., but this idiot blog is the only time I’ve ever done anything that was even remotely creative. Other than this, I’m always just the audience, so it means a lot to me. It’s my favorite hobby. Hell…it’s my ONLY hobby. It keeps me out of trouble (for the most part).

      I know you’re going to slap me upside my head for saying this but of the many blogs I read, there are two who routinely get +/- 200 comments PER POST. Can you imagine how awesome that would be?! Never enough.

  13. One slap-upside-the-head coming your way. I read about fifty blogs on a fairly regular basis and do you know how many of them get your numbers ? ZERO. Just keep repeating that old chestnut about feeling sorry for yourself because you had no shoes, and then you met a man who had no shoes, no hat, no gloves one leg was shorter than the other AND his mother liked his brother better.

    • Excellent metaphor. Thanks. I’ll employ it straight away.

      I don’t know how many blogs I track but I don’t think it’s anywhere near 50. I am maxed out. My rule is: if I add a blog to my feeder, I have to take one out. Following blogs is a slippery slope and I don’t want to forget that I have a wife and two children. Don’t laugh! It can happen! How come you don’t blog? Just reading them is like eating your vegetables without getting desert.

  14. We were in NYC over Labor Day weekend. Saw the BOOK OF MORMON on Sunday and the WHITNEY on Monday. Enjoyed both outings. The play was just like you said. I thought Jeff Koons was about balloon images. I would feel uneasy taking a young person to see all of his art. There were a lot of kids that day. Mostly foreigners. What about those blank sheets of canvas on display?
    Once again, everyone in the city was very receptive, sometimes going out of their way to help us.

    Fellow Buckeye

    • Glad you had a nice time! If someone comes to the city and has a rotten time, I somehow feel responsible. It’s ridiculous but that’s what’s in my head. I spend so much time talking this place up that I hate to be proven wrong.

      There were children in the Whitney when I was there, too. I heard some of the security guards warn the parents that some of the work on the 4th floor was inappropriate for minors. But that’s where balloon dog and Play-Doh are! How stupid is that?! Are you talking about that room on the fifth floor with the 10 paintings in a single room? They’re not COMPLETELY blank, although I see your point. They have graphite gray lines. Hard to see until you get up close.

      C’mon back one day. There’s plenty more where that came from.

  15. There’s a big exhibition touring the UK at the moment of Malevich, who got very close to blank white canvases a hundred years ago. I’d definitely ring in sick for that.

    I think Ad Rheinhardt did really blank canvases in the fifties. I saw some of them in London — I think they’re pretty impressive, a big question to every professional and amateur art critic and painter and anyone who’s interested.

    Koons leaves me cold but I suppose what he’s saying is that there is an almost provocatively simple joy in the glossiness and emptiness of those surfaces. Doesn’t touch me though.

    Could you not blog using a text editor, and just upload it to WP later? They can’t ban text editors or nothing would ever get done in most firms.

    • Hi there, Cliff. Nice to see you.

      My feelings about Ad Reinhardt spanned the full arc. I was enamored with is work at first but now it fails to impress. I often go through these changes-of-heart about an artist. As I mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of respect for Koons but now I kind of enjoy his work, even though I still think it’s completely lacking in originality.

      I often do the very thing you suggest—type out posts (or comment responses!) in an email, send it to myself, retrieve it on my phone and post it. It’s a lot to go through but necessity is the mother of invention.

  16. Someone paid that much for The Pink Panther nailing a blond? I mean, that’s pretty awesome, but . . .

    I like that you took a sick day to check out some art, but you shouldn’t have to tell them which illness you have. We should be able to just say “I’m taking a sick day because I’ve never seen The Pink Panther fuck a blond before.”

    • Sometimes, the truth will NOT set you free. Food poisoning is the perfect alibi. You are completely incapacitated for 24 hours but can show up the next day none the worse for wear. The problem is you can’t use it multiple times. It starts to look fishy.

  17. Well I’m right with you on the slackers heart, Mark. Who cares?
    I like the playdough – the fact he has made that from steel is remarkable. Like the indigo heart and I think the balloon dog is very realistic. Even if you find his work slightly off, you have to admire his artistic ability. And that he gets a shit load of money!! The toasters and vacuum cleaners? Hmmm… even I’m struggling with those.

    PS: Sorry I’m late. Got stuck in Welsh Wales.

    • Hi, Jules. I suspect that MOST people have a slacker’s heart but are too afraid to admit it. We are in good company.

      I wish I had gotten a much better photo of the heart. It’s probably my favorite piece and I gave it the short shrift. I think I admire his ability to market these pieces more so than his ability to produce them. And, by the way, he isn’t producing SQUAT. He’s got a team of assistants to do the heavy lifting.

      What’s with the apology? There’s no obligation to come here! Drop by when/if you can. Always happy to have you.

  18. I’m not a fan of art, sadly – I find it’s pretentiousness a little galling – but THIS. IS. AMAZING.
    I want a huge balloon dog!! But I don’t have $58 million dollars! How annoying is that?
    Seriously, this is all brilliant – I’ve never heard of Jeff Koons but now I am going to check him out.

  19. There is an English expression which came to mind when I saw some of these:
    ‘Yer ‘aving a larf mate!’
    Still I suppose he laughed all the way to the bank.
    Thanks for sharing.

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