Is Pop Art dead? The recent popularity of the street artist-turned-art darling KAWS has led me to wonder how many more artists can blur the line between art and commerce before the line is meaningless?
This tango between art and commerce has been fertile ground for decades. Marcel Duchamp may have done it first with his readymades, Jasper Johns carried on with his paintings of known symbols such as numbers, targets, the flag, the map of the U.S. etc, Andy Warhol captured the imagination of a broad audience by combining what the artist created with the personality of the artist, and Jeff Koons may have perfected Pop, synthesizing it until it is now the output of an almost corporate art machine.
KAWS is disturbing, especially in his latest manifestations, because his work seems so joyless and soulless. I enjoyed his earlier street work because he was mocking the establishment. Now he is the establishment churning out paintings and products that don't elevate any discussion but merely feed a market for his work. Today have artists such as KAWS reached a point where they have demolished the line between art and commerce, or have they simply dropped the pretense?