In 1988, the artist Jeff Koons created the brilliant porcelain sculptural object “Michael and Bubbles,” a kitschy, super-sized 3D depiction of late man-child and mega-pop-star Michael Jackson and Bubbles, his famous chimpanzee pet-as-sidekick.
Michael and Bubbles were kind of like best friends for a while. Human and chimp as pals. Cross-species buds. Besties. BFFs way before BFF was even a term that would be abbreviated.
On the surface, Koons’s “Michael and Bubbles” is aggressively kitsch. It is intentional kitsch, a studied execution of an idea in the form of a sentimental and banal vernacular craft art. It is ironic-not-ironic but serious. Nevertheless, the kitschy effect is fully realized, if not hyper-adrenalized at such a magnified scale.
What strikes us most about this work is a small detail: The way Bubbles’s eyes seem so self-aware, intelligent and human, like he knows he’s sitting for a portrait. It’s a little unnatural and creepy, similar in its unnaturalness in the way infants’ faces seemed unnatural and adult-like when depicted in Medievial European paintings .
Koons made three of these sculptures. The one pictured here is at the Broad Museum of Art in Los Angeles.