|BP Yesterday I was looking at a Martin Kippenberger hotel drawing where he did a portrait of you next to a self-portrait. You guys were friends, right?
JK Martin came to New York with Max Hetzler and saw my “Equilibrium” show and really loved it. They invited me and several other New York artists to show in Cologne in 1986 where I brought some statuary pieces. I remember hanging out with Martin at the Chelsea Hotel and going to the Paris bar. I always felt that our relationship was paralleling a Beuys/Warhol situation.BP I noticed on your Twitter that you were at the Louvre Museum a few days ago?
JK Yes, I had four hours free before my flight home so I went to the Louvre and I have to say those four hours went by in a flash.BP Which area of the museum did you visit?
JK I spent a lot of time with the Greek and Roman antiquities looking at vases. I was amazed because earlier that day I had been at a breakfast where they had this Picasso painting, a fantastic beach scene with two female figures. The forms are cubistic, but classical in their mass and size. The figures have a reddish brown clay feel to them set against a silvery gray blue sky. So then later I’m looking at these Greek vases in the Louvre and – bam! – I realized that the Picasso colors come from the vessels.BP Won’t you be having an exhibition at the Louvre with your balloon animals soon?
JK At the very end of November, my show will open at the Centre Pompidou and then in January we are planning an installation in the 19th century galleries at the Louvre where they have “The Raft of the Medusa,” “The Coronation of Napoleon,” so many great paintings.BP Which is funny because we were just talking about Kippenberger who famously did a whole body of work based on “The Raft of the Medusa.”
JK I loved that series of Martin’s and the original is so profound. When you look at it, you can almost feel the people clawing their way up the surface of the painting.BP Will your retrospective at Centre Pompidou be mounted differently than the way it was presented at the Whitney?
JK The core of the exhibition will be the same. In New York we had approximately 125 works and in Paris we’ll have approximately 100. Now of that 100, I would say 70 works will be the same: some of the liquor paintings, some of the “Made in Heaven” works, the vacuum cleaner pieces, but then in Paris we will show the Play-Doh painting instead of the Play-Doh sculpture. Some of that just has to do with the scale of the space.
BP Will your Dictator cannon make it to Centre Pompidou?
BP I think Picasso had that experience where other people ended up naming the works later on.
BP Interesting how the studio nomenclature can be different from the rest of the world. In Joe Bradley’s case, he has these modular paintings, which most people refer to as robot paintings even though that’s not what he calls them.
BP Have you ever thought that your work might have been better served if you lived under a monarchy instead of a democracy? Only in that you wouldn’t have to concern yourself with galleries and other business considerations.
JK Of course, I’ve thought about it because as an artist I’ve been ambitious, but my work is extremely democratic and my philosophy is democratic: opening up the experience of art for people so they don’t feel left out. I never wanted to create a dialogue where I’m speaking down to people. I remember going to the Baltimore Museum of Art on my first day of college and I didn’t know any of the artists. I didn’t know Braque. I didn’t know Matisse. I didn’t know Cezanne. And I survived that moment where I feel that a lot of people don’t survive that expe- rience. Sometimes people use art for self-empowerment by intimidating other people, making them feel like they have to come to the table with something pre-prepared. I’ve always believed that people come to the table with their own personal experience and whatever that is, it’s perfect; it’s your history. Nothing more and nothing less is perfect for that moment.
BP I heard that you own a Hercules painting currently on view at the Met and the largest of your gazing ball sculptures I believe is of Hercules.
BP So what is your attraction to Hercules?
BP Or the Poussin painting hanging over your bed in Pennsylvania?
BP And you own another Poussin painting of a man leaning over a sleeping woman as cupid looks on.
BP How insane that they would overpaint a Poussin because it seemed too racy for the public? I mean, either show it as the artist intended or reject the painting altogether.
BP Isn’t that what happened to Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden”?
BP Tell me about the little rock with the vaginal carving that was serialized into some of your Antiquity paintings. I heard it’s actually a piece from your personal collection?
BP The “Metallic Venus” sculpture in your Whitney retrospective echoes Roman statuary in that it has a supporting pedestal built into the base. Is that something you were thinking about?
BP But I wondered if you were more interested in the Greek sculptors pursuit of the heroic ideal or the sense of realism sought after by the Romans?
BP And then there’s another Antiquity sculpture of yours, “Pluto and Proserpina,” that’s in dialogue with Bernini so I was curious what you like about him?
BP Richard Prince said that a long time ago, you sold him some gold coins with a Dali impression on them. Does that ring a bell?
BP Funny that you met Dali at the St. Regis Hotel, which is also where Calvin Tompkins first met Duchamp. Tell me about that experience.
BP In terms of numbers, do you think that odd ones are better than even? What is your ideal number?
BP I know you say that you like wood because it was alive once and therefore there’s an innate spiritual quality, so what is you attraction on a material level to stainless steel and porcelain?