Thursday, August 20, 2009
Anxiety of Influence, Life-Size Train Version
Jeff Koons' proposed $25 million steel and aluminum Train for LACMA (rendering, above left) bears some striking similarities to Scottish artist George Wyllie's Straw Locomotive (right), a 1987 piece shown in Glasgow. This was pointed out in a French-language blog post by Catherine-Alice Palagret and just recently by L.A. Times reader J. Ponds, commenting on a March 2009 article.
Though the materials of the trains are different, as are the budgets, consider:
• Both are life-size steam locomotives
• Both are suspended from a crane
• The cranes are of comparable height (200 feet in Glasgow v. 161 feet planned for L.A.)
• The color schemes are similar--black, red, and yellow(ish)
• Koons' train is to puff steam; Wyllie's was burned, producing smoke
Though Wyllie isn't well-known in the U.S., he showed his 120-foot-long Paper Boat in New York in 1990. Koons has built a career on appropriation and has been sued several times for allegedly infringing on lesser-known artists' ideas. "Good artists copy, great artists steal," Picasso supposedly said. Some might say that Wyllie "stole" the surreally levitating train from Magritte. At any rate, if Koons was aware of Straw Train, it would solve one enduring mystery about the LACMA project: Why a crane?