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Koons draws attention to the continuity of images as they pass through time, combining art historical reference with vernacular images and objects, from common suburban products and mass media to symbols of sexuality and transcendence.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.
Extended through September 18, 2014
June 25–September 18, 2014
Rockefeller Center, New York
Laws of Motion
Catalyzed by Laws of Motion—a group exhibition pairing artworks from the 1980s on by Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Rosemarie Trockel, and Jeff Wall with contemporary sculptures by Josh Kline and Anicka Yi—Wyatt Allgeier discusses the convergences and divergences in these artists’ practices with an eye to the economic worlds from which they spring.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2019
The Fall 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Sinking (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn on its cover.
Intimate Grandeur: Glenstone Museum
Paul Goldberger tracks the evolution of Mitchell and Emily Rales’s Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland. Set amid 230 acres of pristine landscape and housing a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art, this graceful complex of pavilions, designed by architects Thomas Phifer and Partners, opened to the public in the fall of 2018.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
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.
Art Basel OVR: Pioneers
Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers
March 24–27, 2021
One of a hundred selected galleries, Gagosian is pleased to present Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers, an exclusive online project for Art Basel’s launch of OVR: Pioneers. The presentation will include works by Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Nam June Paik, and Rachel Whiteread.
Theaster Gates, American Tapestry, 2019 © Theaster Gates
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
TEFAF Online New York 2020
November 1–4, 2020
Gagosian is pleased to participate in TEFAF Online New York 2020 with a special presentation of Cherubs (1991) by Jeff Koons.
A wall sculpture in polychromed wood, Cherubs forms a key part of Koons’s renowned Made in Heaven series (1989–91) and merges his investigation of kitsch aesthetics and commodity culture with a veneration of Baroque craftsmanship—it was carved by artisans from the Bavarian village of Oberammergau. Making reference to the Rococo visions of Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher, and evoking the cavorting figures of Cupid or Eros, Cherubs combines the religious and the sensual, bringing divergent conceptions of taste and value into confrontation with one another.
Jeff Koons, Cherubs, 1991 © Jeff Koons. Photo: Rob McKeever
“Grandi quadri miei con piccoli quadri di altri”
September 5, 2021–February 20, 2022
Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland
In this exhibition, Albert Oehlen: “Big Paintings by Me with Small Paintings by Others”, select works from Oehlen’s personal art collection are on view alongside some of his most significant paintings. In staging this large-scale exhibition, Oehlen aims to make relationships perceptible between his artworks and those by artists whose practices he has long admired. Work by Richard Artschwager, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool, among others, is included.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 1997/2005 © Albert Oehlen. Photo: Lothar Schnepf
Jeff Koons in
NGV Triennial 2020
December 19, 2020–April 18, 2021
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Featuring major new commissions and recent works by over 100 artists, the NGV Triennial brings contemporary art, design, and architecture into dialogue, offering a visually arresting and thought-provoking view of the world today. The exhibition celebrates the work of some of the world’s most accomplished artists and designers, including Jeff Koons, while also giving voice to emerging practitioners. Koons’s Venus (2016–20) is the first sculpture from the artist’s new Porcelain series to be unveiled. The series juxtaposes classical ideals of beauty with sophisticated contemporary production technologies.
Jeff Koons, Venus, 2016–20 © Jeff Koons. Photo: courtesy National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Inspiraatio—Nykytaide & Klassikot
June 18–September 20, 2020
Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki
This exhibition, whose title translates to Inspiration—Contemporary Art and Classics, explores contemporary art inspired by iconic masterpieces. Here, the original works are referenced through replicas, prints, plaster casts, and an abundance of archival materials. This exhibition has traveled from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, under the title Inspiration: Iconic Works. Work by Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Jeff Koons, and Jenny Saville is included.
Installation view, Inspiraatio—Nykytaide & Klassikot, Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, June 18–September 20, 2020. Artwork, left to right: © Glenn Brown, © Wolfe von Lenkiewicz. Photo: Hannu Pakarinen
October 27, 2019–July 5, 2020
NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Happy! presents contemporary works produced by artists who aim to engage the viewer emotionally. In their works, as in life, sorrow and happiness are intertwined. The exhibition follows a multigenerational trajectory from the mid-twentieth century to today. Work by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, and Andy Warhol is included.
Takashi Murakami, Open Your Hands Wide, Embrace Happiness!, 2010 © 2010 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved