Combining Brown's love of Golden Age Hollywood with his art world satire, 57th Street is one of Brown's most meticulously structured multi-frame paintings. The piece retells the story of the classic film Sunset Boulevard with the lead character (originally Williams Holden) recast as Jeff Koons, and his matron (originally Gloria Swanson) recast as Louise Nevelson. Not meant to be a literal representation of real events with Koons or Nevelson, the painting in a large sense skewers both the networking and the grudges of the New York art scene as Brown envisioned it. In a particularly clever twist on the story, recreating the famous Sunset Boulevard scene of a murder victim floating in a pool, the painting has Koons' floating basketball sculpture as "the victim" of the matron's wrath.
Brown's particular interest (or derision) of Koons may in part extend to something closer to Chicago, it is worth noting. While Koons is known on an international scale, he got his start in Chicago, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Brown's own alma mater. Koons was part of a generation at SAIC that sought to reject and distance themselves from the Imagists—a schism that Brown would push back against in kind.
Transcription of text beneath panels, top to bottom, left to right
Young artist Holden Coons can’t hit on the right kind of art do make it in the big time. He decides to try to make it big by courting older well known artists and maybe appropriating their art.
He meets older sculptress Gloria Nevelson, who has been declared obsolete by the young appropriators because she continues to make her own work. She hopes to make a comeback at the Chesterfield Gallery but old acquaintance Cecil B. de Monet won’t even answer her letters.
Gloria is protected from the truth of her obsolescence by gothic realist Eric Von Fischl (Max) who daily supplies her