Koons and Duchamp have played with objects and commodities to point out who we are, as humans, and how the world around us is changing. Duchamp, Gioni said, “understood how the 20th century would be the century of consumption and choice, rather than of production.” Both artists understood, too, the intrinsic eroticism of this choice.
Art, Duchamp pointed out, “is felt through an emotion presenting some analogy with a religious faith or a sexual attraction,” a connection he made explicit in the curvaceous bronze pieces Feuille de vigne femelle (Female Fig Leaf) (1950–61) or Objet-dard (1951–62). Koons, in the 1980s aesthetic of Made in Heaven (1989–91), reveals how the modern pornography industry has successfully transformed sex into yet another thing to be consumed. Both artists reveal to us how we, as a society, have commodified and objectified desire.
Ironically, beyond the museum’s confines, the elaborate shop window displays that Duchamp wrote about are rarely found in Mexico, even by the country’s biggest department stores. Instead, there are the Oxxo convenience stores, open 24/7; at night, with little else open, revellers looking for something to drink or eat, flock to the cool fluorescent lights like an electric fly trap. For security reasons, customers are not allowed in the stores after dark, and instead must stand outside and direct a shop assistant inside to help find what they want. The exercise recalls the central questions of “Appearance Stripped Bare”: What are the things that we desire? And how do they control us?