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Koons draws attention to the continuity of images as they pass through time, combining art historical reference with vernacular images and objects, from common suburban products and mass media to symbols of sexuality and transcendence.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
From the Quarterly
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.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
June 14–17, 2018
Messe Basel, booth B11
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel 2018, presenting works by modern and contemporary artists including Georg Baselitz, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellen Gallagher, Jennifer Guidi, Andreas Gursky, Neil Jenney, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Takashi Murakami, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Mark Tansey, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Mary Weatherford, and Tom Wesselmann. To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at email@example.com. To preview our booth go to www.artsy.net. To purchase tickets to attend the fair go to www.artbasel.com.
Georg Baselitz, Frau am Strand (Woman on the Beach), 1981 © Georg Baselitz 2018
Tuesday, June 5, 2018, 5:30pm
New York Institute of Technology
Jeff Koons will participate in the David Rockefeller Lecture Series. As a successful artist who has partnered with businesses, Jeff Koons sits at the intersection between the two industries. He will speak about his past collaborations and how, by navigating the space between business and the arts, he has encouraged the integration of the arts in different spaces. To attend the event, purchase tickets at secture.artusa.org.
Photo: Branislav Jankic
Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 5–7pm
Gagosian Shop, New York
Gagosian Shop will unveil one hundred editions of Jeff Koons’s Puppy (Vase) (1998), available for sale. Koons will be in attendance to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of one of his most popular early editions. Combining Koons’s interest in domestic objects, classical beauty, and childlike joy, Puppy (Vase) is a glazed porcelain vase in the shape of a small white Highland terrier, its wiry hair expertly articulated. The editions were produced in 1998, only a few years after the completion of Puppy (1992), Koons’s monumental topiary sculpture that is permanently installed at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. To attend the free event, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Koons, Puppy (Vase), 1998 © Jeff Koons
MoMA at NGV
130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art
Through October 7, 2018
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
MoMA at NGV will provide a unique survey of the museum’s iconic collection. Two hundred key works will be arranged chronologically into eight thematic sections. The exhibition will trace the development of art and design from late-nineteenth-century urban and industrial transformation through to the digital and global present. Work by Alexander Calder, Andreas Gursky, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol will be included.
Pablo Picasso, Seated Bather, 1930, Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Sea of Desire
Through November 4, 2018
Fondation Carmignac, Porquerolles, France
The phrase “Sea of Desire” on a large-scale painting by Ed Ruscha will welcome visitors to this exhibition, which channels a spirit of rebellion and change. Sea of Desire will confront the viewer with compelling artworks that imply revolution, freedom, and a quest for beauty. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol will be included.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fallen Angel, 1981, Fondation Carmignac, Paris © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris 2018
Heaven and Earth
Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons
Through March 24, 2019
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
This exhibition brings together a selection of works from two contemporary art icons, allowing viewers to experience their sculptures in playful and unexpected ways.
Jeff Koons, Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank
(Dr. JK Silver Series), 1985 © Jeff Koons
Opened April 20, 2018
Fondazione Prada, Milan
The group of exhibited artworks, realized between 1960 and 2016, represents a possible mapping of the ideas and visions that have guided the creation of the collection and the collaborations with the artists that have contributed to the activities of the foundation throughout the years. Work by Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Damien Hirst, Carsten Höller, and Jeff Koons is included.
Carsten Höller, Upside-Down Mushroom Room, 2000 © Carsten Höller. Photo by Attilio Maranzano, courtesy Fondazione Prada