I like to think that when you leave the room, the art leaves the room. Art is about your own possibilities as a human being. It’s about your own excitement, your own potential, and what you can become. It affirms your existence.
Jeff Koons rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists exploring the meaning of art and spectacle in a media-saturated era. With his stated artistic intention to “communicate with the masses,” Koons makes use of conceptual constructs—including the ancient, the everyday, and the sublime—creating luxurious icons and elaborate tableaux, which, beneath their captivating exteriors, engage the viewer in a metaphysical dialogue with cultural history.
Born in York, Pennsylvania in 1955, Koons studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and, receiving a BFA from the latter in 1976. Since his first solo exhibition in 1980, his work has evolved from small-scale assemblages of toys and found objects to his now iconic monumental works, including huge balloon animals rendered in mirror-polished stainless steel, as well as flowering topiary sculptures, such as Puppy (1992), which is permanently installed at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
Koons draws attention to the continuity of images as they pass through time, combining art historical reference with vernacular images and objects, from common suburban products and mass media to symbols of sexuality and transcendence. Beginning with Inflatables (1978–79), a series inspired by the readymade, Koons created six series of innovative works in less than a decade including Pre-New (1979–80), The New (1980–87), Equilibrium (1983–93), Luxury & Degradation (1986), and Statuary (1986). His interest in popular culture expanded in the Banality series (1988), which included sculptures of recognizable figures such as Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988)—a nearly life-size gold-leaf porcelain statue of the pop singer with his pet chimpanzee. In 1989, Koons presented Made in Heaven (1989–91), a series centered on him and his then-wife in sexually explicit poses, frequently in fairytale settings, evoking the stark bodily presence of the nudes depicted by French Realist painters.
During the mid-1990s, Koons expanded his Pop sensibility through the Celebration series (1994–): hyperrealistic, brightly colored paintings and large-scale sculptures depicting vernacular images and forms such as plastic figurines, Play-Doh, and jewelry. Conflating the readymade and the monumental, these works attest to Koons’s ongoing fascination with childlike consciousness and communication; transforming humble objects into abstract symbols of transcendence and the biological. In 2000, seven new works by Koons debuted at the Deutsche Guggenheim: the Easyfun-Ethereal paintings. Derived from the optimistic, colorful Easyfun series (1999–2000), these layered, collage-like tableaux depict cut-out photographs of packaged foods, paradisiacal landscapes, and fragments of women’s faces, limbs, hair, clothing, and accessories. Attesting to Koons’s interest in the simple pleasures of visual culture, Easyfun-Ethereal would eventually be expanded to twenty-four paintings, presenting uncanny, imaginative panoramas.
Koons’s dialogue with the readymade and American pop culture continued in his Popeye (2002–13) and Hulk Elvis series (2004–), which incorporate large-scale inflatable characters, either alone or combined with other objects and images, creating playful, often discordant relationships. Starting in 2008, the Antiquity series highlights Koons interest in metaphysics, a line of inquiry that was central to the making of the Equilibrium works and that continues to evolve in his latest works in production.
Among Koons’s recent works is the Gazing Ball series (2012–), in which he makes direct reference to canonical works art. In each piece, a blue mirrored, hand-blown glass gazing ball reflects its surroundings, uniting painting, sculpture, and architecture in order to multiply sensory experience. Like much of his work, the Gazing Ball series reactivates and intensifies familiar scenes, whether from legend or the everyday, reflecting and affirming viewers and their environments.
May 30–August 24, 2018
976 Madison Avenue, New York
March 10–April 21, 2018
West 24th Street, New York
Extended through August 18, 2017
April 27–August 18, 2017
Gazing Ball Paintings
November 9–December 23, 2015
West 21st Street, New York
November 6–December 20, 2014
Extended through September 18, 2014
June 25–September 18, 2014
Rockefeller Center, New York
New Paintings and Sculpture
May 9–June 29, 2013
West 24th Street, New York
December 7, 2012–February 14, 2013
Jeff Koons: Easyfun-Ethereal
Learn more about Jeff Koons’s Easyfun-Ethereal series in this video featuring Rebecca Sternthal, one of the organizers behind the most recent exhibition of these works in New York.
The Bigger Picture
Derek Blasberg speaks with Diane Brown, president and founder of RxArt, and with contributing artists Dan Colen, Urs Fischer, and Jeff Koons about the transformative power of visual art.
The Bigger Picture
Jeff Koons speaks with Alison McDonald and Maura Harty about his longstanding commitment to protecting the rights of children.
Jeff Koons Glenn Fuhrman
The FLAG Art Foundation hosted a conversation between Jeff Koons and FLAG founder Glenn Fuhrman, in which the two discuss the dichotomy between sexuality and childhood innocence in Koons’s oeuvre, remaking Made in Heaven with Lady Gaga, what drives Koons to make more work, and several works including Cat on a Clothesline (1994–2001) and Winter Bears (1988).
The Last 36 Hours
Derek Blasberg speaks with Scott Rothkopf, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, about the last thirty-six hours of the Jeff Koons retrospective, which also marked the end of the museum’s tenure in uptown Manhattan.
Split-Rocker: A Landscaping Perspective
Jeff Koons’s flowering sculpture Split-Rocker, at once imposing and adorable, has cast a spell on New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Derek Blasberg interviews Matt Donham, Koons’s landscape designer on the project, to find out more.
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Jeff Koons’s first, mammoth one-man show opens at the Whitney today, which is also the last show at the museum’s Madison Avenue location.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019, 6–7:15pm
Sheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford, England
Jeff Koons will speak with Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of art history at the University of Oxford, England, about the inspiration behind the artist’s bold and provocative works, and what role they play in the world of contemporary art more broadly.
Jeff Koons. Photo: David Fisher
Live auction: Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Online auction: November 12–December 7, 2018
Exhibition: December 1–7, 2018
Moore Building, Miami
Bono, the driving force behind (RED), invited artist Theaster Gates and architect Sir David Adjaye to cocurate a selection of contemporary art and design that will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on December 5, 2018, during Art Basel in Miami Beach and Design Miami/ 2018. Gagosian will present a preview exhibition of the works at the famed Moore Building in Miami, which will open on World AIDS Day, December 1.
Artists donating works include Ai Weiwei, Christo, Rachel Feinstein, Teresita Fernández, Frank Gehry, Jennifer Guidi, Sir Jony Ive and Marc Newson, Jeff Koons, Guillermo Kuitca, Marilyn Minter, Wangechi Mutu, Jenny Saville, and Sean Scully; Adjaye and Gates will also contribute unique pieces.
Proceeds from this year’s auction will support community-based programs in Africa through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, while also providing assistance to fight HIV through community-strengthening programs in Chicago with Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation. For additional information, please contact Lidia Andich at email@example.com.
Theaster Gates, Bono, and David Adjaye. Photo: Rankin
Opening reception: Tuesday, December 4, 5–8pm
December 5–9, 2018
Moore Building, Miami
On the occasion of Art Basel Miami Beach 2018, Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch are pleased to present Pop Minimalism | Minimalist Pop, their fourth collaboration at the Moore Building in the Miami Design District. This group exhibition explores the intersections and legacies of two major American art movements of the 1960s—Pop art and Minimalism—and the ways in which features of Minimalism have been incorporated into a variety of contemporary art practices. While these two art movements are typically seen to represent opposing artistic responses to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, the work in Pop Minimalism | Minimalist Pop highlights points of common conceptual approaches and mutual exchange. Work by Jeff Koons, Adam McEwen, Sarah Morris, and Richard Prince is included.
Roy Lichtenstein, Entablature #4, 1971 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
El deseo y el objeto en la obra de Marcel Duchamp y Jeff Koons, aun
Through September 29, 2019
Museo Jumex, Mexico City
Curated by Massimiliano Gioni, this exhibition, whose title translates to Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even explores the work of both Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons.
Jeff Koons, Grotto, 2000 © Jeff Koons
At the Ashmolean
Through June 9, 2019
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, England
This exhibition of work by Jeff Koons features seventeen pieces, fourteen of which have never been shown in the UK before, from series such as Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity, and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.
Jeff Koons, Antiquity 1, 2009–12 © Jeff Koons
Elephant in the Room
Sculptures of the Marx Collection and the Collection of the Nationalgalerie
Through September 8, 2019
Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin
Elephant in the Room—Sculptures of the Marx Collection and the Collection of the Nationalgalerie explores the relationship between artwork and spatiality. The titular “elephant in the room” is those forces and sizes that, although not part of the sculptures, have a decisive influence on their presence in space and are thus an integral part of the expanded concept of art of the 1960s. Work by Jeff Koons and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Jeff Koons, New Shop-Vac Wet/Dry, 1980 © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons in
The Dog: A Celebration at Chatsworth
Through October 6, 2019
Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England
This exhibition explores the Cavendish family’s enduring love for dogs, through paintings, drawings, sculpture, letters, and photographs of the animal. Ranging from historic to present-day pieces, specially selected loans from public and private collections are presented alongside items from the Devonshire Collection. Work by Jeff Koons is included.