Why Lady Gaga's Album Cover Is Actually A World-Class Work Of Art
I’ll tell you straight out, this is a classic cover. When you’re listing the 100 best covers of the 21st century, this will be right up there. Typographically it’s an AA+, visually it’s AAA.
Jeff Koons is one of the best artists around: a funny guy who is seriously good. Here he has given us a game of spot-the-art-historical reference. This is Gaga as Venus. Specifically Botticelli’s version in his Birth of Venus (1486), in whose shell she sits and flowing golden locks she echoes.
But she’s taken a few stops along the art historical way. Koons has done to Botticelli’s Venus, what Edouard Manet – the father of modern art – did to Titian’s Venus in his painting Olympia (1863). That is to bring her bang up to date. Manet did it by turning Venus into a hooker; Koons has done it by transforming her into a pop star. In both cases they have done away with the wistful gaze into the middle distance favoured by the renaissance artists, and instead have their modern versions challenging the viewer by staring directly into his eyes. These are not women to be messed with.
He is also making a nod to Andy Warhol, the high priest of Pop Art (with Gaga being the high priestess of Art Pop?). Warhol toyed with art historical references when recasting a pop culture princess as a venerated goddess in Marilyn Diptych (1962), made shorty after Marilyn Monroe died. A Diptych was an ancient hinged tablet or painting that could be used as an altar piece in front of which people would pray. The left side represented the living, the right side the dead. Warhol alluded to this by presenting Marilyn in colour on the left side and in black and white on the right. Now look at the background of the Koons cover of 'Artpop'.
Koons has not left out art references from this century in his post-modern mash up. Gaga’s legs-akimbo pose is taken from Tracey Emin’s I’ve Got It All (2000), in which we see the YBA - legs wide apart - shovelling money into her groin (I’ll leave you to work out the rhyming slang). But Gaga doesn’t have money between her legs; she has a Jeff Koons sculpture, or is it an Anish Kapoor sphere? Either way, it reflects money metaphorically and an image literally: a surrealist mind-game worthy of Dali himself, who happens to be one of Koons’s great heroes.
His shtick is to play with our perceptions of fine art and pop culture: to make the low high and the high low. His Michael Jackson sculpture is one example, as are the ****ographic portraits of him and his then wife La Cicciolina, the Italian **** star, making out. The images are gross or amusing depending on your sensibilities at first, and then become darker and more sinister the more you think about them. Koons’s art asks questions about values, taste, capitalism, reality and beauty. They are designed to appeal to our eyes and mess with our soul - and his new Lady Gaga cover perfectly fits that mould.
Jeff Koons' Lady Gaga ARTPOP album cover deconstructed by our art critic
Jeff Koons is a baroque artist for a pop age, a lover of energy and sex and beauty whose ARTPOP album cover – released by Lady Gaga last night – is a masterpiece of mad hilarity. It's a throwback to Koons at his boldest when he portrayed himself and the **** star Ilona Staller (briefly his wife) as naked lovers. Some may be cynical about Lady Gaga's attempts to claim this mantle but, for me, to steal the title of that infamous exhibition, this marriage of art and pop really is Made In Heaven.
1. A wind god blows perfumed air to waft the goddess of love on her way in this detail from Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
2. Jeff Koons started his career in 1980s New York and for all its sophisticated imagery, this cover nostalgically evokes the raw collaged look of old New Wave album sleeves.
3. The glistening metal ball between Lady Gaga’s thighs mirrors her world and reveals bright shining lights, mysterious figures, a photoshoot maybe.
4. This sphinx-like image of the singer mixes the smooth sensuality of the neo-classical sculptor Antonio Canova with the digital ethereality of a cybersex goddess.
5. Botticelli’s Venus can just be glimpsed covering a breast, while Lady Gaga cups both breasts with the same divine self-possession.
6. Daphne, a nymph who was pursued by the lovestruck god Apollo, is about to change into a tree to escape his lust in this glimpse of a statue by Gianlorenzo Bernini.
All the Koons praise. She knew what she was doing. ICONIC!
Source One & Source Two