Under the current financial climate, headline stories such as Damien Hirst’s record breaking $199 million one man auction at Sotheby’s 2008 seem memories of a by gone era. With gallery owners reporting 50% less sales in 2009 than a year ago, it seems the art market has not escaped a national tightening of purse strings. New York based designer and artist Ken Courtney, AKA Ju$t Another Rich Kid, gives his opinion on the role of the artists in the current climate: “I think consumer consumption fuelled the art and fashion worlds to the point of oversaturation. Right now is the correction period.”
Debuting in 2002 with an exhibition of paintings, t-shirts and lists entitled The New American Dream in Duke University USA, Ken Courtney emerged into the New York art market with pieces primarily addressing “the commodification of celebrity”. His renowned Star Fucker tees, claiming the wearer had slept with a number of well known celebrities such as Paris Hilton, gained him a memorable if somewhat notorious reputation. He has recieved a cease and desist letter after producing a t-shirt printed ‘I fucked The Strokes’ and he has just been placed on legal notice by the McDonalds co-operation. However, as Courtney explains, “others spend time with innuendo about sex, drugs and desire, my work addresses it head on.”
Courtney’s satire on consumer materialism continued to expand into the creation of his brand name. ‘Ju$t Another Rich Kid’ exists for Courtney as a cross between a brand name and alter ego, inspired by “pop culture, music and consumer culture”.
With the creation of Ju$t Another Rich Kid, Courtney’s work portfolio grew to an eclectic mix of couture, sculpture, and printing often fuelled by a fixation with a certain media or method: “I’m very obsessive about things. When I get into something I get consumed by it.”
One of the most striking and controversial examples of Courtney’s work is his collaboration with Brooklyn based artist and designer Tobias Wong in the creation of the Indulgences series. The work compromises 14ct gold plated items, including a McDonalds coffee stirrer, banned in the late 1970s with the discovery that people were using it to take cocaine and a pair of Nike trainers dipped in 24ct gold (on sale for £2700). Courtney explains, “I thought of making a line of completely indulgent, useless but functional items for someone who has so much money they could buy something like a gold replica of a McDonalds coffee stirrer to use as a coke spoon.”
Whether a clever commentary on the wounds materialism has inflicted or just an example of extreme consumer indulgence, Ken Courtney’s objects of celebrity and consumption seem to have tapped into a continually relevant section of the art market, always popular and always controversial.
View more of Ken Courtney’s work at www.justanotherrichkid.com