For the inner skeptic in the art viewer, this evening was rather nothing. Or, on the contrary, grist to his culturally pessimistic mills. Seen in the light, it could not be otherwise. After all, Jeff Koons, a veritable superstar of the international art business, was announced. He was to provide information about his work, the somewhat poppy-sounding "Apollo Kithara", and about his view into the "Engine Room of the Gods", the sensational exhibition in the Liebieghaus, which has set itself the goal of convincingly parallel the history of art and science of the past 5000 years.

Christoph Schütte

Freelance author for the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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No wonder, then, that around 400, perhaps 500 people crowded into the completely sold-out Metzler Hall of the Städel Museum like a pop star. Just as patiently, they stood in line after the talk for a quickly thrown "balloon flower" with the artist's signature in a catalogue, on the ticket or in the museum guide, asking for a last photo of Koons or, better still, a selfie with him. So far, so predictable. Only art had a not so easy stand.

Compliments for Brinkmann's "Engine Room of the Gods"

To be sure, Koons did not show the slightest nakedness in his conversation with Vinzenz Brinkmann, who has conceived, planned and curated the exhibition in the Liebieghaus over the years. He kindly distributed compliments for the sculpture museum, where Brinkmann had set up his "most beautiful show ever" (Koons) in 2012 in dialogue with Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculpture, for the magnificent collection of the house and for the spectacular, just opened view into the "engine room".

The fact that the American artist, who sees himself primarily as a painter, is electrified by Vinzenz and Ulrike Brinkmann's research on the colourfulness of Greek sculpture has not only been known since his surprising visit to the "Colorful Gods" two years ago. At the latest during the tour of Brinkmann's new exhibition in the Liebieghaus, to which he and Koons invited the audience afterwards, and especially before Koons' interpretation of the "Apollo Kithara", it was difficult to overlook it anyway.

Why – and now it was Brinkmann's turn to hand out compliments – Koons' wind chime of platonic solids and his "Apollo", created after an antique model in the British Museum, presented the sum of the exhibition, as it were, was not readily apparent in the Liebieghaus either.

Getting closer to antiquity with modern pop songs

With all the pop songs recorded for Kithara, from Nirvana to Rihanna, in which the "Apollo" is embedded, and in front of the animated python, which also accompanies the god in Koons, one felt a bit like at the fair. Which may come closer to the ancient thing, if one thinks of the automatons, merry-go-rounds and revolving dining rooms that amaze the visitor in the "engine room of the gods", than one can imagine.

When, in conversation with Brinkmann, Koons interprets the snake attached to the "Apollo Kithara" and programmed by the artist, which constantly flickers, not as the embodiment of evil, falsehood and sin, but as an image of metamorphosis, healing and transcendence, one might once again look at his view of antiquity in a different light. And yet, it doesn't help. Even in the Liebieghaus, as in the myth, Apollo has no choice in the end. He kills the dragon sent by Hera. And Rihanna sings to it.