Balloon Animal Lover Jeff Koons Feted at National Arts Club; ‘Jeff is a Gladiator’ Says NAC President

The National Arts Club was filled with balloon animals and art-world notables last night for the club’s Gold Medal of Honor awards presentation to artist Jeff Koons.

We asked about future plans for his work.

“I am always wanting to prove myself to myself,” he said, smiling. He wore a somewhat understated suit with a glossy black and silver striped tie; he held his hands clasped while we talked. “And to remove anxiety. Not that there’s always anxiety, but I think that’s the obstacle. You know? I believe that is my journey in art.”

We joked about his appearance as state assemblyman (and future San Francisco mayor) Art Agnos in Gus Van Sant’s Milk. Mr. Koons smiled again.

Milk was great. Gus called and said he saw me on the Today show and that what he saw [when he watched] me was exactly Art Agnos. Gus is great. To be on set was wonderful because everyone was so passionate about the people–it was really about people, and I was so happy to be part of it and know everyone.”

We asked if our deflated economy will affect what we see of his art.

“I’m not a Reagan Artist,” he said, shrugging.

After parting with Mr. Koons, we bumped into Neal McDonough, a junior member of the club who works for a firm that advises companies on their art acquisitions. He described for us the “old glass butt plug” that was in the foyer of the National Arts Club for a time.

“Some people think of this as an old farts club. It’s not. I’m just so happy to see one of the first artists with a publicist in here receiving this award,” said Mr. McDonough, facetiously.

We asked National Arts Club president O. Aldon James Jr. how he felt about Mr. Koons’ reputation as an “exemplar of 80s inflation,”  “too commercial,”  “narcissistic…” Mr. James blinked at us from behind pink-tinged glasses. He thumbed his matching pink vest and looked at us earnestly.

“Jeff is a gladiator. This artist”–he pointed into his palm emphatically–“has never been more relevant to the time. As a father he is a great role model, he is an icon. And really,” Mr. James looked at us sideways and stage whispered, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

Balloon Animal Lover Jeff Koons Feted at National Arts Club; ‘Jeff is a Gladiator’ Says NAC President