Menu

Gagosian Quarterly

October 17, 2014

The last 36 hours:koons at the whitney

It’s a bittersweet weekend for the Whitney Museum of American Art, and for Jeff Koons. After more than a quarter of a million visitors, the artist’s critically acclaimed and much ballyhooed career retrospective comes to an end on Sunday, October 19, before the museum leaves the Marcel Breuer-designed uptown location. (The Whitney’s new location will open next year in New York’s Meatpacking District.) To fête its final few days, the Whitney has announced it will stay open an unprecedented thirty-six hours—from 11am on Saturday to 11pm on Sunday—for the first time in its history. Scott Rothkopf, a curator at the Whitney who has witnessed the pandemonium of the exhibit, speaks to Gagosian’s Derek Blasberg about what to expect at the Koons farewell.

Installation view, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

Installation view, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, editor, and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to being the Executive Editor of Gagosian Quarterly, he is the Head of Fashion and Beauty for YouTube. He has been with Gagosian since 2014.

See all Articles

Derek BlasbergWhose idea was it to do the thirty-six hours?

Scott RothkopfThat’s a good question. It wasn’t Jeff’s and it wasn’t mine. We of course wanted to mark the end of the building and the show with some occasion, and one day someone from the programming office, or maybe it was the visitors office said, ‘Why don’t we stay open for the entire last weekend?’ And we thought, Why don’t we?

DBIt reminds me of when I was in high school, and we would have a ‘lock-in.’

SRYes, I did those too. The difference of course is that people are free to come and go. I want to make that clear!

DBHa! But what made a lock-in so appealing was the idea of spending the night at school. Indeed, the idea of spending the night in a museum is novel. There’s even a movie franchise called, Night at the Museum, when everyone gets into all kinds of trouble when the museum is supposed to be closed. Is this similar?

SRWe have a lot of things planned. For example, Jeff will come in at 9pm on Saturday night and sign some books. He never had a book signing, so we thought we’d do it now, and he’ll stick around for some photos. At 11:59pm, I’m going to do a talk and a Q&A about what it took to get this exhibition up and running—I had been working on it with the museum for four years. And then on Sunday morning at 8am, we’ll have some kids programming: sketching booths, touch stations where people can feel some samples of Jeff’s materials, things like that. There’s a stroller tour at 9am Docent tours in the afternoon.

DBWhat’s going to happen between your Q&A and that first kids program, between the hours of 1am to 8am?

SRWe don’t know! It’s a mystery, an experiment. We’ve had these long lines at the museum, which many people were sad about. So maybe we should tell everyone this is an ideal time to come: 3am.

DBWill you and Jeff be there that whole time?

SRI’m not sure about that. He may duck out and then come back. I should probably get some sleep, though I don’t know when that will be. It’ll be hard to pull myself away, and everyone at the museum is excited to see what’s going to happen.

The Last 36 Hours

Installation view, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,  Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

DBLooking back at the show, do you have any particular highlights?


SRI’m going to think about this show for the rest of my life. And don’t forget that after the Whitney it’s going to move on to the Pompidou in Paris, and then to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. What I was really unprepared for was the outreach of the exhibition. Not just ticket sales, but also how the whole thing unraveled online and in social media. All of the reflective surfaces in his show: they are perfect selfie objects! Even though they are from a proto-selfie era. The response among artists and the public, and even the art critics has been incredible. And what has been great is that we’re able to see the spectrum of work, and how the early pieces hold up against the later ones, which you don’t always find in a retrospective.

DBNo real surprises, then?


SRThe surprises were good ones. For example, we were a little worried if the Play-Doh would be completed in time, because it was over twenty years in the making, and if we’d get the Liberty Bell in there. But we did!

DBIt sounds like an exciting weekend, but also perhaps with a tinge of sadness since it means the show is over.


SRBut what a wonderful closing. It actually feels more like a launch, especially for the museum. The Koons show lit the rocket boosters that are going to launch the museum to its new space. This is a great moment for everyone. Jeff and I were talking about it today: This has been an all-consuming project for both of us. We’re happy with the response and how it turned out, but we still have to wonder: Will there ever be a show about Jeff Koons that’s this big? He’ll have more shows, sure, and he’ll create more work, but this is something special.

DBSo, that’s what you’ll be thinking about this weekend.


SRI’ll also be thinking about Monday morning because at 8am, guess what we get to do: start moving everything out of there. But, I will say that we’re a bit calmer about that, because we know if we got them in there, we can get them out.

Artwork © Jeff Koons. Photos by Ron Amstutz. Jeff Koons: A Retrospective is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27–October 19, 2014

Glenstone Museum.

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.

Still from video Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt

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

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.

Rx Art

The Bigger Picture
Rx Art

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.

Jeff Koons

The Bigger Picture
Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons speaks with Alison McDonald and Maura Harty about his longstanding commitment to protecting the rights of children.

Jeff Koons Glenn Fuhrman

In Conversation
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).

Split-Rocker: A Landscaping Perspective

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: 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.

Michael Craig-Martin at his London studio, 2019

Behind the Art
Michael Craig-Martin: Ordinariness

Join Michael Craig-Martin at his London studio as he speaks about his working methods, his interest in the ordinary, and his abiding concern for the sculptural.

Helen Frankenthaler in gondola with various friends, Venice, June 1966

Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992

Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992 marks the first time that Frankenthaler’s paintings have been exhibited in Venice since her inclusion in the 1966 Biennale as part of the US Pavilion. This video, including interviews with the show’s curator, John Elderfield; the chairman of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Clifford Ross; and the Foundation’s executive director, Elizabeth Smith, provides viewers with an in-depth look at the fourteen paintings included in the exhibition.

Left: Sally Mann, Self-Portrait, 1974; right: Jenny Saville in her studio, c. 1990s.

Sally Mann and Jenny Saville

The two artists discuss being drawn to difficult subjects, the effects of motherhood on their practice, embracing chance, and their shared adoration of Cy Twombly.

Thelma Golden and David Adjaye.

The Studio Museum in Harlem

Established in 1968, the Studio Museum in Harlem has served as a crucial institution in the development, presentation, and promotion of artists of African descent. With the museum now preparing for the construction of a new home, Gagosian’s Mark Francis spoke with Thelma Golden, director and chief curator, and Sir David Adjaye OBE, the project’s principal architect, about the building plans and the centrality of artists in their collaboration.