Is Kim Kardashian the New Jeff Koons?

Leandra (gray text) and MR photographer/resident art history major, Krista (blue text), discuss Kim Kardashian as an artistic marvel


Image by Sarah Silberg via Vulture


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  • Madeleine Gallay

    ridiculous, insulting, horrible … not funny

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  • no! no funny at all…

  • Laura De Valencia Kirk

    This idea (Kim as the new art form) was also brilliantly exposed by art critic Jerry Saltz. There’s no banal topics, only banal approaches– and I am glad you are having this conversation from a different and refreshing perspective.

    This is the link to Saltz’ article:

    • Leandra Medine

      thanks for link! feedback across other channels has been mostly: we hate this theory and are therefore unfollowing you! but i do believe it’s worth at least having the conversation and canvassing the question. as evidenced by our convo, there’s no real answer, we’re totally cogitating — but would so love to hear what everyone else is thinking

      • Laura De Valencia Kirk

        Nina García recently posted a picture of KK arriving to the Givenchy show and her mad followers were threatening with unfollowing her. And those reactions are also part of the fascination, it makes me think of KK as art; she has that Walter Benjamin’s “aura,” she shocks people more than “real art” does. Her haters make me think of abstract art haters in the times of the French Salons. It will take time for the idea to settle but hey, keep encouraging people to think different! Make them look past her outfits. Do not ever stop approaching things that seem banal (e.g fashion) in a totally revolutionary (and smart) way.
        Post data: Sorry about my grammar, English is not my first language.

        • Lua Jane

          I am not a fan of Kim K. I am sort of indifferent. I view her as incredibly succesful business person, and also media and public phenomenon. In that she excelled. Whatever her starting point was, now she is a household name and omnipresent. I do however have hard time understanding the hatred many individuals have for her. It’s perfectly fine not to like her, but all that hate and negative energy? Argument that she is the sign of the demise of modern society is meek, because, It’s not her that made it that way. She is, at best a simptom of the global state of mind.

  • Jul Mara

    I’m totally on board with this, because as usual you guys have given legitimate thought to an idea and made something really intelligent and compelling out of what other people would just dismiss — and I laughed out loud at Leandra’s last text

  • Mallory

    Oh my goodness I love this. I am so obsessed with actually regarding the things the Kardashians do as legitimate things that affect our culture. They’re so prevalent and its so fascinating to try to understand why they are so facinating to us. People claiming that this “isn’t funny” probably are love to cry about the death of culture as we know it and need to stop thinking that you can’t create a conversation about things that they think are worthy (art world) and things that they think don’t deserve their respect (Kardashians). To me Kim Kardashian is totally the new representation of the American Dream, she has a dynasty and only 10 years ago she was organizing Paris Hilton’s closet.

    • M. R.

      I don’t mind them at all, but I think putting too much importance and giving them too much credit is highly problematic for our society as they really don’t do much. Yes, they work hard and do photoshoots, appearances, create multiple products, etc. They are business people. But this is no Cinderella story. She may have cleaned Paris’ closet but she was no poor maid. Like I said, I have no real problem with her, but let’s not boost her up any higher than she already is because the fact is she is REALLY high up already. Giving her extra artistic credit at this point is just giving into her ubiquity and not realistically criticizing how her example of “look good at all costs and that’s it” strategy for success isn’t perhaps the best model for America.

  • Jeanne Zamansky

    Loved it ! And I was just watching kuwtk. It’s a sign. I love Kim K and always end up defending her against people who have no real knowledge of what she is really. Thanks guys for rehabilitating her !

  • Lou

    I think it’s absolutely an interesting and valid point of view to explore. We are so entrenched, whether we like it or not, in the “Kardashian-era” God help us. On the other hand, the way this potentially interesting idea was presented here did not feel interesting to me at all; lazy in both context and form, without much nuance or thoughtfulness. It’s a tricky argument to make, so if you’re going to make it so that even people who disagree listen and respect the argument, I think it would have to be more compelling than this.

    • Kelsey Moody

      I find it so interesting the mediums in which we communicate and consume news; it usually involves being inundated with sensationalized headlines, hyped fads, and meaningless sound bites. On TV, radio, tablets, phone, computer, billboards- all we see and hear are the Kardashians, even via “legitimate new sources” (ie: Bloomberg tv is on all day right next to my desk, Ive seen Kim K on 3 times in the past 2 months….and Ludacris on once). How do we process and unpack what we’re seeing 24/7? Conversation, intellectual or otherwise, between friends (unfortunately? thankfully?) happens via text and email nowadays– so how do we make these convos meaningful and not completely void of substance when the meat of the argument shows up as blue and grey bubbles? Does this tricky argument deserve a round table discussion, perhaps with another point of view from someone in the art world, media world, perhaps, adult entertainment world? This piece certainly makes you think about Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” concept. Maybe, what is compelling most about this post, is the comment section. And on that note, do we as a society censor ourselves, opinions and observations down so much in fear of a comment section that we can’t even flush out an idea in a simple article? Do we depend/rely on these comments to get a point across? Are we just yelling into the void? Can we only generate a lively comment discussion if the topic revolves around Kim K??? Are we doomed?

      • Jackie @ Kleiden drew

        I just saw your comment about Warhol. So sorry. Didn’t mean to re-hash your comments. It’s what I thought of as well. Love your post. Thanks!!

  • M. R.

    Interesting perspective. I think though that this is a case of art-savy people being able to find an artistic rationale behind the Kim Kardashian brand, and less of Kim Kardashian the artist knowingly creating pop art. She’s done so much in her quest for fame that there’s much to use to say that her existence in pop culture is significant, but even her reality shows lacks an artistic expression. They follow the format of most reality shows on TV. I do however think they majorly upped their game with the few episodes they devoted to Caitlyn Jenner. The editing and camera angles were beautiful. It felt respectful and perhaps a bit more staged, but that is where the artistry comes in, doesn’t it?

  • M. R.

    Also I find her authenticity to be a complete sham. Just because she goes to doctor’s appointments and gets ultrasounds on her butt to show it’s real doesn’t really mean she’s authentic. It’s incredibly staged and although she maintains that she’s open and honest and real, she’s yet to address the many plastic surgery procedures she’s had on her face over the years. Perhaps this is the artistry. Being able to trick people into thinking it’s real. But then I don’t find con-men and magicians to be artists so much as clever people.

  • Jessica Peterson

    I’m into this! I think this is the entire argument that her husband has been making for some time now. I would take this conversation and add that her true artistry began when she found her counterpoint in Kanye West. The two of them realized their phenomenon and have worked their public persona into this art piece. I think you are onto something…

  • Beatrice

    I find the Kardashians and their empire (trying to thing of a word that implies empire but starts with a K….) to be fascinating. I mean, I think a major reason why people are so polarized on the issue of Kim Kardashian is because she reflects much of what our society is evolving into (much like the Pop Art movement in the 60s highlighting the gross consumerism and pretty sheen of the 1950s). “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is like a self-produced Truman Show… I think the real “artist” here is Kris Jenner, whose management skills & savvy have created the empire. And for every hater out there, there are five other women like me who watch the train crash of KUWTK weekly or at least follow a Kardashian on Instagram.

    So, while I personally don’t like Jeff Koons’ art, that doesn’t make it any less relevant to the moment in which it was produced. I think that’s key to understanding the Kardashians: they have taken the most consumerist basal desires of people, injected it with Botox, and shocked us with our willingness to watch it all happen. Because, when it comes down to it, we are buying what the Kardashians are selling.

  • It’s fascinating that a group of women figured out how to take advantage of the system and make millions of dollars, and so many people are angry about it.

    If we didn’t live in a culture that was obsessed with the female body and sexuality, nobody would care. they wouldn’t have millions of followers on social media

  • BTW I get to look at a Jeff Koonz piece everytime I come in and leave work

  • (An introductory note: The first time I enrolled in art school in 2010 everyone hated Jeff Koons because of what he stood for. I took two years off and re-enrolled this year and Jeff Koons will be visiting to give a lecture that SOLD OUT within minutes of the tickets going on sale.)

    This is a really smart discussion. I think there is a lot you can do with the topic of celebrity versus artist and how capitalism affects authenticity and vice versa. I think most people are “concerned” with is what these individuals are associated with. People get so upset about commercialism and it’s always a great laugh for me.

    The other day my T.A. was angry that Chuck Close is working with industrial looms because it’s not “authentic” and it’s too commercial. ( and However, Kiki Smith is working with the same company to produce her own artworks on the loom and everyone in the class agreed that her work is more “authentic”. LOL the art industry works purely in commercial form. Both artists are going to sell their weavings for a shit ton of money. At least Close was hilarious enough to use images of famous people. Now some rich person will have a weaving of Brad Pitt’s face…cool…Funny, even…and the upset grad student is spending thousands of dollars to go to art school and also use an industrial loom. What’s their excuse?

    Kim Kardashian does not have the same life as a regular American woman. So how is her life and what she does in-authentic? How is “Selfish” NOT a work of art, even if it is true to her character or the character she has made of herself? What deems an artist authentic in 2015?

    • Krista, u r brilliant. Can we b friends?

      • Laura De Valencia Kirk

        Krista I really wanted to add that to my comment #squadgoals

  • BK

    This is all well and good and I liked this piece – sidebar, why are people so furious about it below? Settle down fam – but I don’t think I could ever reconcile the idea of Kim Kardashian being a ‘true’ artist or iconic creative in the way I consider, say, (fashion example) the Antwerp Five to be. You know? She is successful, wildly successful at what she does, I’ll give her that; I just don’t think history is going to be that kind to her about her output. It’ll be remembered as commercial, not creative.

    Also I just had a brilliant brainwave: her official biography should be called “Kontours: The Sculpted History of Kim Kardashian”
    (its a pun because she preens so much for the media, but also because she contours her face a lot. I’ll see myself out.)

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  • BTW I get to look at a Jeff Koonz piece everytime I come in and leave work

  • I totally agree with the idea Kim Kardashian is consciously creating pop art from herself. I have watched some of her interviews and beyond the pretty face is clearly someone with business acumen, whether or not she uses the technical jargon to articulate it.

    However, I have went from thinking Kim is completely vapid and getting rich from her looks, to thinking that she consciously is utilizing her looks for business (and being impressed by that), back to wondering whether business savvy/intelligence immediately means she is not actually self-absorbed/selfish, or at least justifies her being so, if she’s “in on the joke.”

    Is money really the ultimate justification, or signifier of success? Going back to your “Everything is a Selfie” discussion–once you’ve put on your proverbial own oxygen mask (for yourself, for your nuclear family)–don’t you need to do what you can to help the greater society?

  • Is Kim Kreating art? I’d say that’s an easy Yes.

    Is Kim a good person*? Is the one I’m curious about.

    *a good person is someone who worries whether or not she/he is doing most everything that is right and moral, because he/she has fucked up many many times

  • Krista is a genius. Ignore her perspective at your peril.

  • Eliisa Makin

    I had this exact argument with a friend several years ago when I compared the way that Tracey Emin capitalised on her life struggles – packaging it as ‘modern art’ – and former page 3 girl Katie Price (apologies, I’m British, you may need to google her) – packaged her issues as entertainment via OK magazine and reality tv shows. To me a video describing your abortion, or a tent with post it notes detailing former lovers (aka T Emin) is selling the same thing as someone detailing their sex lives, etc via crappy magazines. They are just targeting a different audience. I think Kim K takes it to a new level, and really does manage to blur some of the art/fashion/pop culture lines quite astoundingly. And, I’m quite sure that in the future, people will remember her ‘work’ far more readily than Jeff Koons.

  • Lisa Marie Zapata

    Some are offended by the comparison. I believe because they associate Koons with those cute puppy figurines and other blow-up animal representations. Correct me if I’m wrong but I distinctly remember a life size portrait of what I can politely describe as a Jeff Koons “money shot.” Am I right?

  • Apeksha

    Kim and Kanye make perfect sense for each other.

    Hark back to this 2012 open letter by Internets favorite agony aunt Coke Talk:

  • I’m so on board with this. It’s like Kim did what Lady Gaga tried to do with ArtPop, but in a way more, oddly accessible way. Between my record player and my prose-heavy books on rock music in the 1960s, I have Selfish. Everyone who’s ever been in my apartment has to look through it. You have to look at Kim – she’s a fascinating fixture on our pop culture wall. She may not be a role model for everyone but at least she’s not afraid to utilize her resources to create and be a part of something bigger than green juices and Barre classes.

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  • Lina Tharsing

    Blah, you have to actually like Jeff Koons for this argument to work. I think the Jeff Koons style of using the art world against itself, marketing and star power becoming more important than ideas or craft, and never even touching the “art” you “make” and instead having it manufactured really really sad. The fact that Kim Kardashian has anything in common at all with Jeff Koons is proof that they both suck.

  • Adardame

    Don’t you have to wait for someone to die before you can decide if they really made a valuable contribution to the field of art? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere. Probably on the internet.

  • she’s provocative. she’s different. she’s showing you something that most people and families want to hide. she takes all the haters and capitalizes on it.

    i used to think she was a terrible part of society, a role model that is uneducated and vain. but the older i get the more i realize really she’s a genius and her entire life has become her medium… the show, her game, her book, her clothes, her look, her family. lots of people say it’s fake but i think it’s kind of raw and it’s her way of creating for us.

    think whatever you want about her, but she’s a confident woman who doesn’t spend her entire day tearing other women down….and we need more of those if nothing else!

  • Lauren Anderson

    @@LeandraMedine:disqus very interesting article. I’m not sure I agree but the idea is definitely thought-provoking. Anyway, I mainly wanted to say that I hope you have more articles on here about art and the artworld!

  • Jackie @ Kleiden drew

    I suppose that if we look at what is happening with the Ks now with Andy Warhol’s Factory. Stay with me for a minute. That Warhol and his collaborators (who aren’t given as much credit), sought to make fantastic, the already fantastic. And surely, they believed that they were. To indirectly make commercial, that which was not considered universally so as the Kardashian/Jenners are and have been explicitly since a certain sex tape subsequent show.s But here’s the rub: Where Warhol and perhaps Jeff Koons sought to turn art and beauty on its ear for their own benefits or ours collectively, the Ks may be considered commercial art primarily because they’re pretty and have tits. Other than Kendall, I’ve seen nothing that gives me that sense that they’re in on the game. That they’ll tkae it a tad further – further than say dyeing their hair turquoise. (Though I must admit that I don’t watch the show and don’t follow them on SM. I, like many many others fall bass ackwards into K/J ‘news’ because I follow Harper’s Bazaar, Elle (US/UK) and news media outlets. Roundabout way of saying that I exist.) I don’t feel that the Ks or any of their ilk, have challenged us, and our notions of beauty or what is considered acceptable. They’ve co-signed on our very boring, sexist, stale, social views. They’re pretty to look at. We’d probably have a nice discussion about dogs. I envy their shoe closets and bank accounts. But at a time when we can access the delectable closets, homes, love lives, car collections of so many, it isn’t refreshing. All art is about examination – no matter how mundane the topic or universal an experience may be (love, sorrow, reverance) it may be. Cindy Sherman makes us FEEL something more when we see her stylized photographs, even if it’s ‘just’ a woman sitting in an apartment. We see the soul. It’s the simple notion of there being no other there, there. It’s sad actually. They’re very pretty caged birds. And so many of us want them to stay there. Just my opinion. I do ramble though. Sorry about that.

  • the reluctance to engage w/ this idea based on a recoil reaction is sad and reeks of sexism. i agree: TAKE KIM SERIOUSLY. not famous for being famous, famous for selling us their private lives while we broadcast ours for free.

    and anyone sticking their nose up at the ~desecration of art~ or whatever here has clearly never really looked at a jeff koons piece.

  • DADA

    To be an Artist you must BE AWARE of what type of ART you are making. Is she aware of the art? may be.. may be not. May be she just managed to elevate our obsession with her to an “art form”? the latter is not really Art as defined by the artist community. Also to be consider an artist, one must first proclaim to be one. (not a necessity but helps with the confusion).

  • Ani Bradberry

    It is more interesting to approach the audiences of these “artists” or capitalizers with this frame of mind instead. What the public finds to be sophisticated and intellectual in one case (in the “art world”) is scoffed at in a “low” culture context. This is nothing new in art history since “high” and “low” art have consistently traded methods and motifs.

    Arising from this are questions of shamelessness, since we find one method of indulging in one’s own image to be more justified or more “allowed” than another. When, in reality, both are simply a spectacle that allow the “artist” to obsess over their role and the audience to obsess over themselves (in one way or another) within the artists pygmalion portrait.

    Either way, the author is dead (Barthes) and the art world is an endless imposition of self-identification.

    • Ani Bradberry

      The reason everyone immediately rejects dialogue involving KK is because mass media hails her as something worth all of our attention, yet paradoxically it is exactly that fact that makes her and her clan such an “influential” member of American culture. Either way, placing her on a pedestal as an intellectual participant who creates in order to convey a valuable message is definitely silly, since it is the social reaction to her shallow work that is most fascinating. I cannot denounce those who refuse to hear anything else about her since she’s transformed herself into a suffocating object of truth about how disgusting contemporary culture really can be.

  • If you’re rejecting this with a simple gut-reaction “No!”, I don’t think you read their conversation closely. Kim has undoubtedly created, tapped into something that resonates with millions of people. She is worth talking about, especially by those so quick to dismiss her. Shying away from uncomfortable convos and opinions you disagree with will only make you more ignorant in the end. Well done, Leandra. This is true dialectic.

  • Jezzer

    Kill yourselves.

  • Caro Diaz

    I’m writing a paper on this idea right now! Came back to this post, as I was thinking about it. Comparing the art of Mary Bond to that of Kim Kardashian (on her Instagram and in Selish) and the ways in which each invite criticism. Thinking a lot about whether or not there is/has to be a line drawn between sharing and art, and about the ways posting on social media sites like Instagram has become an art form. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this subject, including @Krista’s!