The oeuvre of contemporary American artist Jeff Koons
presents a puzzlement:
is it work avant garde- of art historical impact and import
produced by a masterful genius? ; or
is it kitsch, successfully marketed by a masterful genius?
Until 27 April 2015, the Pompidou Centre, Paris
will host the first retrospective exhibition held in Europe
on the work of Jeff Koons.
The show includes 150 objects, which includes many of his iconic pieces,
displayed in chronological arrangement.
It examines the breadth of Mr. Koons’ controversial career,
which oft times erupted in sensational responses, headlines
and purchase prices.
(The exhibition travels next to Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain from 12 June
until 27 September 2015).
Whatever one’s reaction towards the artist or his work-
Jeff Koons is arguably one of the most widely known artist of our time.
In November 2013, his piece Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at a
Christie’s New York auction, to an undisclosed telephone buyer,
for the amount of $58.4 million.
The astronomical purchase price rocketed Balloon Dog (Orange)
into a rarefied space as the most expensive amount paid
for a single art piece by a living artist.
Jeff Koons secured the status of celebrity artist extraordinaire.
(image from qz.com):
Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000
sold for $58.4 million
Large scale, mirror-polished stainless steel
one from a ‘litter of five’ of five coloured Balloon Dog sculptures
also in red, magenta, blue and yellow.
The Balloon Dog sculptures are part of Koons’ Celebration Series,
started in 1994 and includes monumental sized works of sculpture and painting.
Yet, Jeff Koons is not a recent sensation to the international art scene.
Born in 1955 (York, Pennsylvania), he later studied painting at the
School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Maryland Institute College of Art.
During the 1980s, he garnered much attention as a conceptual artist with
his Equilibrium Aquarium Series (1985),
which featured one to three Spalding basketball(s)
suspended in a tank filled with distilled water.
(image from nymag.com):
One Ball Total
(image from moma.org):
Three Ball 50/50 Tank: Two Dr. J. Silver Series, One Wilson Supershot
The work is said to represent an existence held in abeyance:
one of inactivity.
Yet, the use of the suspended basketballs may suggest
the potential for eventual transition to activity.
There is also an analogy to life in utero-
of quietude in a contained, calm environment
before all is shattered and overwhelmed by noise.
The artist once stated, “I wanted to keep it a very womb-like situation with (the) water.” (quote from tate.org)
The Equilibrium Aquarium Series also included pieces in bronze cast:
a life boat and an aqualung.
(image from whitneymuseum.org):
(image from hyperallergic.com):
The “inflatable sculptures” of the Celebration Series,
a motley collection of items:
balloons, lifeboats, basketballs, aqualung
references air- the taking in of air, expansion from air,
its ability to give form, its capacity to give life.
According to the artist, “(t)he reason that I enjoy things that involve air is they’re a symbol of us. We’re breathing machines, we’re inflatables, we take air.” (quote from afterall. org)
In his work, Koons uses readily recognizable objects
and items of everyday use, the “readymades”.
Here Koons demonstrates influence from
French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968).
Duchamp shocked the the art world
with use of random objects of no particular aesthetic appeal.
Any attraction to the art work is not then an attraction
in response to visual beauty, but rather one
which demands engagement of intellect.
Ultimately, is this what Jeff Koons’ work is all about:
a bold challenge to what we classify as art and interpret as art?
His pieces certainly ignites and fuels this debate
(image from gothanmagazine.com):
Vacuum cleaners displayed in plexiglas cases (1981 – 1987)
another example of Jeff Koons’ use of mundane objects-
During the late 1980s, Koons created the Banality Series,
which too caused uproar, both good and bad.
Expert at understanding the power of the media to generate a buzz,
Koons took out several several full-page adverts, in various periodicals
to announce the series.
He was the key figure in these media images-
presenting himself in several guises:
as a teacher in a classroom aside a blackboard with written statements
such as “Exploit the Masses” and “Banality as Savior”;
as a womanizer surrounded by bikini-clad women and as
the “propagator” of the banal, which shows Koons with two pigs.
The media campaign was of Koons poking fun at himself.
The images used were based on opinions, which circulated about him.
(image from designboom.com):
Ushering in Banality, 1988
The Banality Series included the famed porcelain figurine
of the King of Pop- Michael Jackson and his pet monkey- Bubbles.
Porcelain piece: Michael Jackson and Bubbles
Koons also created several sculptural works made from plaster
and staged with a large, blue, glass ball.
These included massive pieces of Greco-Roman reference
and true to the spirit of the “readymades”-
a row of mailboxes elevated on buckets.
(images from design-milk.com):
Jeff Koons prides himself on creating art,
which speaks to an audience of broad spectrum.
His work makes use of imagery from popular culture and of things familiar .
Therein lies an enthusiasm for his pieces,
which happily for the artist, has proved quite lucrative.
A few others by Jeff Koons
(image from design-milk.com):
The Incredible Hulk
painted bronze, wood wheelbarrow with real flowers
Bear and Policeman
(from the Banality Series)
(image from guggenheim-bilbao.es)
(image from gagosian.com):
Antiquity 1 (2009 -2012)
Jeff Koons: A Retrospecitve
The Pompidou Centre, Paris
until 27 April 2015
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