Five Things You Need to Know from the “TimesTalks” with Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel



Randy Kennedy, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons

Randy Kennedy, of the New York Times, sat down for a TimesTalk with two art world heavy hitters, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons on March 6, 2017. Below are some choice insights from their chat. 

1. Jeff and Julian have been friends since the late 1970s when they met in New York. One night, they were hanging out at the “it” bar, Max’s Kansas City, when Julian introduced Jeff to a friend. The friend asked Jeff, “What do you do?”Jeff replied, “I present the New.” In 1980, Jeff was given his first museum show at the New Museum at its 14th street location where he installed The New, a show of vacuum cleaners sealed in plexiglass display cases.

2. Early on Jeff worked as a door to door mutual fund salesman, driving a vintage green Mercedes. Julian decided to buy the car from Jeff after getting a ride home one night. Eventually, he traded the car with Brice Marden for two Suicide Notes drawings. Schnabel still owns the works, but the car is long gone. Not a bad trade!

3. Both artists have been deeply influenced by Andy Warhol, but they appreciate the work for different reasons. As a painter himself, Julian sees Andy in that tradition. Jeff focuses more on Andy’s use of the ready-made, in the tradition of Duchamp.

Duchamp Fountain

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain
Photo by Alfred Stieglitz

Jeff:  “I really enjoy Andy’s work– I love Duchamp’s work. I got pulled into the idea of a kind of objective art and the idea of the ready made and working with things that are external. And you know of course, Andy’s in that tradition. But I wasn’t thinking so much about Andy. In a way, I was kind of being a little distant.  Even though the work had connections to Andy’s work, I never went and knocked on the door of his studio…I wanted to stay back.”

Koons Red Flower Balloon

Jeff Koons, Balloon Flower (Red)
7 World Trade Center

Julian: “Andy made an extraordinary contribution. Sometimes, people look at the work and think these are photographs that are printed, and they don’t understand that basically he was taking a silkscreen and printing it and all of the irregular registration and the paint that’s getting clogged in it, it was a new way of mark making that was very, very radical.”

SchnabelRose Painting

Julian Schnabel, Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh’s Grave) X, 2016
© Julian Schnabel Studio Photograph by Gary Mamay Courtesy of Pace Gallery

4. Jeff Koons on what he learned from Ed Paschke as his painting assistant in Chicago: “I loved Ed’s work. Ed really taught me a kind of politics of the art world.  We would sit in his studio on Saturdays and Sundays and we would paint…he just taught what it was like to be an artist, having a family, and trying to also have a career and really to be exhibiting. And he really taught not to shoot myself in the foot.”

5. New York was a good place for artists in the 1970s. Soho lofts were affordable and the community was small and self-referential.  Even though Conceptual Art was dominant, Jeff and Julian felt free to each pursue another focus. Both were able to support themselves and make art. Schnabel was a short order cook in a restaurant frequented by dealers and artists, while Jeff was a commodities trader. Amidst their tight-knit community of dealers, artists, and curators, their work became recognized at the same time. Julian had his first show in 1979 and Jeff had his first show in 1980. Julian announced a new way forward for painting by smashing dishes from his restaurant, adhering them to canvas, and painting figuratively on the surface. Jeff re-invented the idea of the ready-made by selecting, purchasing and presenting consumer objects like art.

When asked if New York is still a good place for young artists Julian said, “Would I recommend for one of my kids, if they wanted to be an artist, to come to New York? Yeah.”

Click here to view the TimesTalk in its entirety.

filed under: Art