Balloon Monkey (Blue), 2013 is one of the most expensive pieces in Damien Hirst's collection. It is presented here in the second gallery, allowing a captivating circuit, at arm's reach and under the constant watch of numerous gallery hands. But this space also benefits from the viewing balcony and looking down on the sculpture you are able to witness others study its reflective form as you had yourself just moments before. It adds a further layer of reflection and refraction, it affords you another way of looking at it.
Its surface brilliance is perfect. It is a fingerprint-less metallic blue mirror, curving the gallery walls and staring public back on themselves. It is also, even from a child's party, the least convincing of all the balloon animals. This is not the incredible dog, nor even the recognisable snake. It fails as a monkey but mesmerises as engineering. Koons has reached a level of finish unimaginable in his earlier career.
Even the first gallery's ready-mades are crude in their construction, despite the Hoovers never having been used, merely re-boxed in perspex and either paired up or illuminated with strip lights. They date back to the early 1980s when the artist was working on Wall Street, just the beginning of his self-perpetuated mythology. The early work references Duchamp and Flavin, Minimalists and Pop but despite such overt hereditary art history this show does not come off as stale. Rather, it more tellingly paves the path that so much contemporary art has taken.
The Bowl with Eggs (Pink) is a parallel of one of Hirst's giant ashtrays. Looking at the work Koons made in his earlier career could be Richard Prince. Younger, fresher work alludes to very modern mores - seemingly inflatable throwaway pool toys and crass kitsch children's balloons are, like the giant monkey, extraordinarily well made and stylistically, in complete contrast to their materials and workmanship.
Play-Doh is a mountainous sculpture based on a simple thoughtless heap created by the artist's son - only scaled up to an impossible height. Instead of the putty mimicking nothing but coloured dog shit, it towers above the visiters of the gallery and is faultless in its execution. The work is made of aluminium and is in fact made from twenty-seven separate pieces, each colourful torn blob an entirely individual metal cast - impossible to challenge, the great frustration of the show is being unable to touch so much of this work which directly challenges the way it looks.
Far too much criticism is levelled at Koons for his immediacy and lack of depth. It is an argument that holds little weight here when over the course of half a dozen galleries and more than thirty pieces Hirst has selected and shown, it is a fantastically broad range of work spanning more than three decades. Some is pornographic, some is appropriation, others even straight off the shelf but there is also, regardless of his titillation and fascination of low art, a pursuit of perfection - and at times, once or twice he achieves it.
http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/dora_maurer_masons_yard_2016/ until October 16th