Jeff Koons: Destroyer of Children

London in July: the height of English summer. Avant-popster Jeff Koons debuts a diabolical scheme to drive the children of England insane. At the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, Koons exhibits a series of sculptures featuring inflatable pool toys collided with other everyday objects. Caterpillar meets ladder. Sea Walrus meets trash can. Puppy meets woodpile.

Interested only in ice cream and swimming, England's toddlers are tricked into visiting the gallery by their hipster parents. "Mummy, can't we play in the park," implores little Emma, "it's ever-so nice today." But the parents know little Emma will love this exhibit and might even begin cultivating a proper taste for high art. Reluctantly and with little choice, England's sandbox set leaves behind the sunny day to enter the gallery.

To their surprise, a wonderland awaits inside. "Oh look, Mummy, it's so pretty! Monkeys! Popeye! Look at the doggie, Mummy!" Little Emma is giddy with the joys of saturated colors and playful experiments in form.

But what's this? Next to each sculpture stands a gallery worker clad in black from head to toe. "Please don't touch that, miss." "Excuse me, but you must not touch the art." "Please stay behind the line, this piece is very expensive."

But why, wonders little Emma, aren't these toys meant for playing? All the animals look like they want to go swimming as well. Why can't everyone go back into the park and have fun? Why do so many of Mummy and Daddy's friends wear black all the time and act like doody-heads?

And so little Emma learns an important lesson about the world. She began the day hoping to splash in the pool and have she finds herself in some tantalizing punishment chamber, surrounded by cute animal friends that seem to beckon her to come play, and yet quickly loom as forbidden objects worthy of respect and fear. The cries of children thwarted in their desire to touch and explore the pretty objects rings through the gallery. At first dazzled, Emma now knows she can only get in trouble here, and that through some system of grown-up insanity, a language meant to speak directly to her childlike wonder has been converted into a strange sacrament full of mystery and awe.

The world is a fucked-up place, Emma, fucked-up and really expensive.

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