here you have my first journalistic headline: i say something that’s true, super dramatic but leaves out at least one important aspect.

but let’s start with the beginning: while having brunch in porto covo one day, i was trying my portuguese on a stack of local tv guides and tabloids when i came across a tiny note saying that jeff koons was going to open a show called 31/2 in lisbon, in a mental institution.

the next day, we went to find el centro hospitalario psiquiátrico de lisboa. we found it and even got a map to help us find pavilion 31, the one with the exhibition.

the park was sunny and quiet and full of pavilions. the airplanes glided over us, one by one, as we were very close to the airport. we managed to find the pavilion, but it was not easy: there were absolutely no signs, no posters, not even a printed a4.

there was a hall with a manned desk at the entrance. researching online, i had found out that koons shared the show with a local mental patient, jose ribeiro.

jose’s contribution was two series of monochrome drawings: some framed, some on an ambulance car.

on the other hand, koons’ contribution was beyond minimal: a couple of framed posters from the 80s called art magazine ads. i know, super disappointing.

the hall was spacious and filled with wonderful natural light from the roof window. i was kinda disappointed but the whole thing was too random to hate: how else would i have visited this place, right?

apparently, there is this guy who teaches art classes to the patients and he was the one to see a parallel between the two bodies of work. so he contacted koon’s gallery, the artist was touched and somehow the show i had just seen happened. weird, huh?

but it makes sense in the context of a short-lived, completely un-promoted event. it’s just like my title today: jeff koons made it possible for them to say they have a split show with a world famous contemporary artist, leaving out the essential detail that his contribution was next to nothing – although the press tried to fluff it up by saying that the alleged worth of the series is around 160,000 euros. and the organizer gets to talk about the similarities between the two artists and about the artistic dialogue blah blah.

anyway, koons is the first international artist involved, but there had been some collaborations with important portuguese artists: for instance, pritzker prize winner in 2011, eduardo souto de moura.

i’m getting this weird feeling: the person speaking about this, every time, was neither koons (with obviously better things to do) or jose ribeiro (vastly unimpressed, very private and not interested in either money or fame), but the very talkative art teacher who noticed the “similarities” and who made it all happen. he’s part of p28, the organization behind the production of the show.

i’m just wondering: will this art teacher guy’s curator rate go through the roof after he managed to organize shows with such world renowned heavyweights? how high will the prices of the mr. ribeiro’s work will go after he’d just had a joint show with mr. koons? and who do you think is selling his works for a nice commission? so many questions, so few answers…

photo credits: lilaesthete