It was the fall of 2008, and I was a young, questioning graduate student. I eagerly queued outside the Museum of Modern Art on a Tuesday evening for a chance to hear Jeff Koons speak, with the hopes of asking him a two-part question I'd been dying to hear his answer to:
"Do you ever feel guilty for taking the credit, fame, and fortune for your work that is created by your studio assistants? Could you comment on the removal of the artist's hand from the creation of work and what that means for young artists today?"
I anxiously listen to Koons speak about his work and its relation to contemporary art, and when Q & A time came round, I raised my hand, prominently waved, and loudly asked the question I'd come to hear the answer to when he called on me. Instead of providing a response, he mumbled something about the artist's right, and moved on to the next question. Disappointed by his response (or lack thereof), I wrote a paper about the experience and my thoughts on artists like Koons and Damien Hirst who profit from the work of their assistants.
Koons' retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art features work from every stage of the artists' career and oeuvre, and I couldn't help but think about the studio assistants behind the larger-than-life artwork. Did you see the exhibition? What did you think?
Inflatable flowers: Amazon
Handbag: Jeff Koons for H&M
Photos by Hannah Kauffman; assistance by Maureen Nacy.