Extended through September 18, 2014
This summer, Jeff Koons’s Split-Rocker makes its New York City debut at Rockefeller Center, to coincide with the opening of the artist’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Presented by Gagosian and organized by the Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer, Split-Rocker is a spectacular planted form that towers over thirty-seven feet high and features over fifty thousand flowering plants. First exhibited at Palais des Papes, Avignon, France, in 2000, it was subsequently shown at the Château de Versailles (2008), France, and Fondation Beyeler (2012), Riehen/Basel, Switzerland. It is also in the collection of the Glenstone private museum in Potomac, Maryland, where it has been on view since June of 2013.
Consistent with Koons’s persistent fascination with dichotomy and the in-between, the inspiration for Split-Rocker came when he decided to split and combine two similar but different toy rockers—a pony belonging to his son, and a dinosaur (“Dino”). The slippage or “split” between the different halves of the heads gives an almost Cubist aspect to the composition. As the model was enlarged to the scale of a small house, the split became an opening, a profile, and a light shaft. In contrast to his legendary Puppy of 1992, which was presented by the Public Art Fund at Rockefeller Center in the summer of 2000, Split-Rocker suggests the idea of a fantasy shelter. Whereas the singular form of Puppy is closed and sculptural, the combined form of Split-Rocker is architectural and hollow.
“We could not be more excited to bring Jeff Koons’s Split-Rocker to Rockefeller Center,” says Tishman Speyer co-chief executive officers Jerry Speyer and Rob Speyer. “Jeff Koons always dazzles, and we know that Split-Rocker, similar to Puppy, will be remembered for years to come. We are delighted to again work with the Public Art Fund to make world-class art accessible to all New Yorkers and visitors.”
“Splitting and recombining two variations on the basic idea of a rocking horse, Jeff’s Split-Rocker connects us to the imaginative playfulness of childhood. At the same time, it allows him to create a formally dynamic and painterly sculpture, using topiary as his medium,” says Public Art Fund director and chief curator Nicholas Baume. “The two irregular profiles joined together offer a continuously shifting perspective as we move around the sculpture, which continues to change as its plants flower and grow according to their own cycle of life. Jeff’s Whitney Museum retrospective is the perfect occasion on which to bring this extraordinary public sculpture to New York City and Rockefeller Center.”
“We are thrilled to share Split-Rocker with New York City this summer,” says Larry Gagosian. “The presentation of this monumental sculpture at Rockefeller Center, combined with the Whitney Museum retrospective, represents a special moment for Jeff. We could not be happier for him.”
Split-Rocker evokes a piece of classical topiary work, yet its technical construction is the result of a twentieth-century invention, inspired by the small-scale floral sculptures found in certain vernacular festivals. The steel is hidden from sight other than where the disparate sides of the head join, while its vast surfaces are “painted” with many thousands of live flowering plants—begonias, geraniums, petunias, fuchsias, and many more. Its internal structure also supports an extensive irrigation system.
Jeff Koons comments, “I love the dialogue with nature in creating a piece that needs so much control—How many plants should be planted? How will these plants survive?—while at the same time giving up the control. It’s in nature’s hands, even though you try to plan everything to make the plants survive. This sense of giving up control is very beautiful. The balance between control and giving up control reminds us of the polarity of existence.”
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective opens to the public at the Whitney Museum on June 27 and runs until October 19, 2014.
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: 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.
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