Slate’s Culture Gabfest tours the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney, and discusses the myth of the “self-made man” with John Swansburg.

Is Jeff Koons Fascinating or a Fraud?

Is Jeff Koons Fascinating or a Fraud?

Slate's weekly roundtable.
Oct. 1 2014 2:19 PM

The Culture Gabfest “That Balloon Dog Didn’t Make Itself” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest tours the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney, and discusses the myth of the “self-made man.”

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Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 315 with Stephen Metcalf, Julia Turner, and Dana Stevens with the audio player below.

And join the lively conversation on the Culturefest Facebook page here:

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This week Slate Plus listeners will hear the gabbers talk about their experiment with Ello, and their social media lives more broadly. Go to slate.com/cultureplus to learn more about Slate Plus and join today.

We are going to be joined by Orange Is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne at our Oct. 8 live show in L.A.! John August and Craig Mazin of the Scriptnotes podcast will also be there. There are still some tickets available. Next up, the Oct. 20 Boston live show! Join us in Julia’s hometown.

And don’t forget you can find Culture Gabfest T-shirts for sale in the Slate store.

This week on the Slate Culture Gabfest, our critics spent a morning touring the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney with curator Scott Rothkopf. Koons has long defined the American fine-art market, but many have felt a repulsion as well as an attraction to his gaudy work. Is this the point, or is Koons’ work really just as hollow as that balloon dog? Next up, Slate’s own John Swansburg joins the gabbers to talk about his new piece, a long and careful look at the enduring American myth of the self-made man. The rags-to-riches story is a classic American trope—but is it possible at all, today?

© Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus (Orange), 2008–12. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 102 × 48 × 50 in. (259.1 × 121.9 × 127 cm). Collection of the artist.

© Jeff Koons

© Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988. Porcelain; 42 × 70 1⁄2 x 32 1⁄2 in. (106.7 × 179.1 × 82.6 cm). Private collection.

© Jeff Koons

© Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Play-Doh, 1994–2014. Polychromed aluminum; 120 × 108 × 108 in. (304.8 × 274.3 × 274.3 cm). Bill Bell Collection.

© Jeff Koons

© Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994–2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 121 × 143 × 45 in. (307.3 × 363.2 × 114.3 cm). Private collection.

© Jeff Koons

© Jeff Koons. Photo by Ronald Amstutz.
Installation view of Jeff Koons: A Retrospective (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 27–October 19, 2014).

© Jeff Koons. Photo by Ronald Amstutz.

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Links to some of the things we discussed this week follow:

Endorsements:

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Julia: John Lanchester’s upcoming book How to Speak Money

John: Ilovemakonnen’s “Tuesday,” ft. Drake

Steve: “Blame It on the Tetons,” by Modest Mouse

Outro: John Lee Hooker’s “Wednesday Evening Blues

You can email us at culturefest@slate.com.

This podcast was produced by Andy Bowers and Ann Heppermann. Our intern is Josephine Livingstone.

Follow us on Twitter. And please Like the Culture Gabfest on Facebook.

Stephen Metcalf is Slate’s critic at large. He is working on a book about the 1980s.

Dana Stevens is Slate’s movie critic.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast.