Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even

  • Jumex Museum (Mexico City)
  • May 19, 2019 — September 29, 2019
  • Massimiliano Gioni
  • Jumex Foundation
koons selfie english

The first time I tried to go to “Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even,” the show currently up at the Jumex Museum, funded by the philanthropic arm of the domestic juice empire and directed by its heir, who is rumored to drive directly into the expansive elevators on dates, I was late. I was sweating. I often sweat when I am late because I am hurrying, which makes me sweat, and because I am stressed out about being late, which also makes me sweat. When I finally got there, the first thing I saw was my friend bending backwards to take a picture of a man selling balloons printed with an image of the giant balloon sculpture in the plaza in front of the musem. He had already texted me, though: “So busy!” The line wrapped around the giant balloon and occupied nearly the entire plaza. My friend suggested we wait long enough to receive a juicebox from a smiling man handing out juiceboxes from a backpack, so we did. Then we left.

There was still a line three weeks later, on a weekday, when I finally went again. It was shorter, though, and there were no juiceboxes. The balloon-seller wasn’t there, either. I waited for about fifteen minutes and then waited briefly to be herded into an elevator, delayed by the family in front of me greeting and catching up with another family of similar complexion and branding. Unlike any other time I have been to Jumex, or really any contemporary art museum, the route was strictly policed, as in national or natural history museums I have been to in Mexico. Everyone waits for the elevator; everyone goes to the fourth floor, while a museum worker informs everybody that they are not allowed to eat, drink, chew gum, or use selfie sticks; everyone uses the stairwells to descend from the fourth to the second floor—the first floor is tickets, cafeteria, and the mobbed museum store; the basement is the bookstore and a particularly beautiful bathroom where I am always surprised not to find somebody fucking behind the grand pillars that separate each urinal and toilet.

When you arrive on the fourth floor, you see an exhausting wall text attempting to frame the show as about the history of Eros in art, displaced desire under late capitalism, or something, which maybe you read. You have an opportunity to read the exact same text, in the exact same spot, on each successive floor. If you turn to the right, as I often do because I like to see things backwards, a bemused guard will tell you to go the other way. The first thing you see is an image of Jeff Koons in a black bathrobe, sitting barefoot and crosslegged in front of a multicolored tent in a mock-tropical garden with “JEFF KOONS” in gold across the top with his galleries listed beneath like the worldwide locations of Uniqlo. At the end of the series, or maybe on the opposite wall, there is one of the many 1000ish word wall texts, all saying more or less the same thing. Imagine reading this blog post over and over again, like fifteen to thirty times, in a room filled with giant shiny things by Jeff Koons and small drab things by Marcel Duchamp, and you have more or less seen the exhibition. There is what is either a poorly- or brilliantly-installed recording of Marchel Duchamp apparently saying puns in French as his alter ego Rrose Sélavy as well—poor if it is meant to be easily heard and brilliant if it is meant to make the listener assume an erotic position, sort of like one must assume to look through the peephole in Étant Donnés, bending over in the middle of a corridor—and perhaps the only actually erotic image in the entire show, a projection of Marcel Duchamp looking directly at the camera with a look that is equally condescending and flirtatious while drinking a glass of water, or was he smoking a cigarette, or both?