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date: 18 October 2019

Koons, Jefffree

American, 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1955, in York (Pennsylvania).

Assemblage artist, installation artist, photographer, mixed media. Multimedia.

Neo-Conceptual Art (Neo-Geo), Appropriation Art, Neo-Pop Art.

Jeff Koons trained for three years at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and subsequently at the Art Institute of Chicago. He lives and works in New York, Germany and Italy. Before embarking on an artistic career he worked on Wall Street as a commodities broker, and his artwork and his conception of the role of the artist remain suffused with ideas and concepts drawn from this earlier experience: the artist survives by supplying commodities to a specific market, governed by the laws of consumerism, speculation and marketing.

Jeff Koons’ output comprises a succession of series of works on various themes, essentially rooted in the use of ‘ready-mades’ and drawing on the Pop Art tradition. Koons appropriates manufactured objects devoid of their everyday context; his later compositions incorporate ready-mades together with the human body, disassembled and reconstituted, or reproduced using craft techniques. In the Duchampian tradition, selected everyday commercial products are thus accorded the status of artworks, perfectly crafted with extraordinary attention to detail. His earliest pieces (1981–1987) are stainless steel reproductions of banal ornaments, reminiscent of 19th-century genre statuettes – nobles and shepherdesses, dwarves, rabbits. Other works featured vacuum cleaners, floor polishers and other such domestic appliances encased in Plexiglas. Louis XIV (1986) is a stainless-steel cast of a mass-produced copy of an original bust of Louis XIV. Boy with a Sack (1987), measuring 5 feet 10 inches (1.80 metres) in height, is a stainless-steel cast of a mass-produced figurine from the late 19th century. Bear and Policeman (1988) is a polychrome wooden sculpture, over 6 feet 7 inches (2 metres) tall, representing a bear dressed like a child’s teddy, its front paws grasping a policeman’s shoulders, in a friendly gesture. Koons’ work is rooted in craftsmanship and popular imagery; childhood memories are often evoked, using ‘recomposed’ objects and toys (as in the monumental flower sculpture Split-Rocker, exhibited in 2000 in the Benedict XII cloister of the Palais des Papes in Avignon). For his 1991 exhibition Made in Heaven at the Sonnabend Gallery, New York, Koons presented a series of computer-enhanced photographic paintings measuring 6 feet 7 inches by 9 feet 8 inches (2 metres by 3 metres), together with Murano glass sculptures and one sculpture in painted plaster, showing the artist and his then wife Illona Staller (better known as the Italian porn-star-turned-politician La Cicciolina), in a variety of sexual encounters, often highly explicit and in graphic anatomical detail. Inevitably, the highly priced works (a mixture of Koons’ trademark kitsch and direct provocation) drew large crowds. A later series of small, beribboned dogs in glass and other materials marked a return to ‘pure kitsch’, and was inspired by Staller’s beloved pet Yorkshire terriers. Koons’ highly controversial oeuvre challenges the workings of the commercial art market, and explores the boundaries of popular and elitist taste.

Group Exhibitions

1987, Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

1997, On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the Werner and Elaine Dannheisser Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York

1997, Multiple Identity: Amerikanische Kunst 1975–1995 aus dem Whitney Museum of American Art, Kunstmuseum, Bonn; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Castello Rivoli, Turin

2000, Pop and After, Museum of Modern Art, New York

2001, The Passions, James Cohen Gallery, New York

2001–2002, Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons: Four Decades of Art from the Broad Collections, LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

2002, Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; Tate Liverpool

2004, Animals & Us: The Animal in Contemporary Art, Galerie St Etienne, New York

2005, POPulence, Blaffer Gallery, Art Museum of the University of Houston (an exhibition exploring the contemporary confluence of popular culture and luxury)

2006, Where Are We Going? Selections from the François Pinault Collection, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (including 9 works by Koons)

2007, Eros In Modern Art, BA-CA Kunstforum, Vienna

2007, Not for Sale, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island (an exhibition exploring the relationship between artists and their work in the context of the economy in which they function)

2007, Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now, Barbican Art Gallery, London

2009, Pop Life, Tate Modern, London

2011, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970–1990, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2012, Ghosts in the Machine, New Museum, New York

2012, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

2013, Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, Museum of Modern Art, New York

2014, The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London

Solo Exhibitions

1980, The New, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York

2000, Jeff Koons. A Millennium Celebration, Deste Foundation, Athens

2002, Jeff Koons: Easyfun-Ethereal, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

2004, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, C&M Arts, New York

2006, Jeff Koons: Diamond (Pink/Gold), Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2008, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

2008, Château de Versailles, France

2012, Jeff Koons, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel

2012, Jeff Koons: The Painter & the Sculptor, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt

2013, Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball, David Zwirner, Inc., New York

2014, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (retrospective)

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Amsterdam (Stedelijk Mus.): Ushering in Banality (1988)

Bordeaux (FRAC Aquitaine): New Hoover Convertibles Green, Green, Red... (1981–1987)

London (Tate Collection): Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Two Dr J Silver Series, Spalding NBA Tip-Off) (1985, mixed media)

Los Angeles (MoCA): New Hoover Celebrity III (1980, vacuum cleaner, Plexiglas tubes, fluorescent lights)

New York (MoMA): New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker (1981, vacuum cleaners, Plexiglas, and fluorescent lights); Three Ball 50/50 Tank (Two Dr. J. Silver Series, One Wilson Supershot) (1985, glass, painted steel, distilled water, plastic, and three basketballs); Pink Panther (1988, porcelain)

New York (Solomon R. Guggenheim Mus.): Blue Poles (2000, oil on canvas); Grotto (2000, oil on canvas); Hair with Cheese (2000, oil on canvas); Mountains (2000, oil on canvas); Sandwiches (2000, oil on canvas)

San Francisco (MoMA): Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988, porcelain)

Turin (Castello di Rivoli): I Could Go for Something Gordon’s (1986)

Washington, DC (Hirshhorn Mus. and Sculpture Garden): Kiepenkerl (1987, stainless steel)

Auction Records

New York, 3 May 1988: Bob Hope (1979, stainless steel, 17 × 5½ × 5½ ins/43 × 14 × 14 cm) USD 27,500

New York, 30 April 1991: New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, New Hoover Quik-Broom, New Shelton Wet/Dry Tripledeckers (99 × 53½ × 28 ins/251.5 × 135.8 × 71.2 cm) USD 137,500

New York, 13 Nov 1991: The Empire State of Scotch Dewars (1986, thick ink on canvas, 44½ × 58¾ ins/113 × 149.2 cm) USD 44,000

New York, 5 May 1992: Stacked (1988, painted wood, 55 × 60 × 25½ ins/139.6 × 152.4 × 64.7 cm) USD 176,000

New York, 7 May 1992: Two Ball 50/50 Tank (Spalding Dr J. Silver series, Spalding Dr J. 241) (glass and steel support with two basketballs in distilled water, 62¾ × 36¾ × 13¼ ins/159.4 × 93.4 × 33.6 cm) USD 71,500

New York, 17 Nov 1992: Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (glass, iron, water and three basketballs, 60½ × 48¾ × 13¼ ins/153.7 × 123.8 × 33.7 cm) USD 148,500

New York, 19 Nov 1992: New Shop-vac Wet-dry (vacuum cleaner and fluorescent tubes in a Plexiglas case, 28 × 22 × 22 ins/71 × 56 × 56 cm) USD 46,200

New York, 5 May 1993: Basketball (1985, bronze, diam. 9 ins/22.8 cm) USD 48,300

New York, 10 Nov 1993: New Double Shelton Wet Dry (1980, two vacuum cleaners with fluorescent lighting in a Plexiglas case, 43 × 54 × 28 ins/109.2 × 137.2 × 71.1 cm) USD 112,500

New York, 2 Nov 1994: Louis XIV (1986, stainless steel, 48 × 28 × 16 ins/122 × 71.2 × 40.7 cm) USD 233,500

New York, 21 Nov 1996: Speaker (1979–1980, loudspeaker, two fluorescent lamps and Plexiglas, 54 × 15¼ × 17¾ ins/137.2 × 38.7 × 45 cm) USD 46,000

London, 5 Dec 1996: Wild Boy with Puppy (1988, painted porcelain, 38 × 39½ × 23½ ins/96.5 × 100.3 × 59.7 cm) GBP 62,000

New York, 6–7 May 1997: Stacked (1988, polychrome wood, 61 × 53 × 31 ins/154.9 × 134.6 × 78.7 cm) USD 250,000

New York, 19 Nov 1997: Snakes (1988, painted porcelain, large snake: 23½ × 35 × 10¼ ins/59.7 × 88.9 × 26 cm, small snake: 16½ × 20 × 6 ins/41.9 × 50.8 × 15.2 cm) USD 112,500

New York, 16 Nov 1999: Winter Bears (polychrome wood, two, 48 × 44 × 15 ins/122 × 112 × 39 cm) USD 440,000

New York, 16 Nov 1999: Pink Panther (porcelain, 41 × 20 × 19 ins/104 × 52 × 48 cm) USD 1,650,000

New York, 17 May 2000: Wall Relief with Bird (polychrome wood, 72 × 50 × 27 ins/183 × 127 × 69 cm) USD 550,000

New York, 16 Nov 2000: Travel Bar (stainless steel, 14 × 20 × 12 ins/36 × 51 × 30 cm) USD 420,000

New York, 15 May 2001: Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988, porcelain-ceramic blend, 42 × 70 × 33 ins/107 × 179 × 83 cm) USD 5,100,000

New York, 17 May 2001: Woman in Tub (1988, porcelain, 24 × 36 × 27 ins/62 × 91 × 69 cm) USD 2,600,000

New York, 13 May 2002: Aqualung (1985, bronze, 27 × 17 × 17 ins/69 × 44 × 44 cm) USD 1,600,000

New York, 11 Nov 2002: Self-portrait (1991, marble, 37 × 20 × 15 ins/95 × 52 × 37 cm) USD 1,850,000

New York, 11 Nov 2003: Vase of Flowers (1988, mirror, 72 × 53 × 1 ins/184 × 135 × 2 cm) USD 750,000

New York, 11 Nov 2003: Lifeboat (1985, bronze, 12 × 80 × 60 ins/30 × 203 × 152 cm) USD 1,800,000

New York, 11 May 2004: St Benedict (2000, oil on canvas, 110 × 80 ins/279 × 204 cm) USD 1,500,000

New York, 11 May 2004: Jim Beam JB Turner Train (1986, stainless steel, 11 × 114 × 6 ins/28 × 289 × 16 cm) USD 4,900,000

New York, 10 May 2005: Cake (1995–1997, oil on canvas, 125 × 116 ins/319 × 296 cm) USD 3,040,000 (premium)

New York, 10 Nov 2005: Wishing Well (1988, mirror with gilded wood frame, 87 × 56 × 8 ins/221 × 142 × 20 cm) USD 1,024,000 (premium)

New York, 9 May 2006: Aqualung (1985, bronze, 27 × 17½ × 17½ ins/49 × 44.5 × 44.5 cm) USD 4,608,000 (premium)

New York, 14 Nov 2006: Cape Codder Troll (1986, stainless steel, 21 × 8½ × 9 ins/53 × 22 × 23 cm) USD 352,000 (premium)

New York, 14 Nov 2007: Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) (c. 1994–2006, high chromium stainless steel with transparent colour coating and yellow brass, 117 × 85 × 40 ins/296 × 216 × 102 cm) USD 23,561,000 (premium)

New York, 15 Nov 2007: Silver Shoes (1990, oil inks on canvas laid on wood, 96 × 144 ins/243 × 366 cm) USD 937,000 (premium)

London, 30 June 2008: Balloon Flower (Magenta) (1995–2000, high chromium stainless steel with transparent colour coating, 134 × 112 × 102 ins/340 × 285 × 260 cm) GBP 12,921,250 (premium)

New York, 20 Nov 2008: Monkey Train (set of 3) (2006, colour screen prints on skateboard decks, 7¾ × 32 ins/20 × 81 cm) USD 2,880 (premium)

New York, 10 Nov 2009: New Shelton Wet/Dry 5-gallon, New Hoover Convertible Doubledecker (1981–1987, Shelton Wet/Dry, Hoover Convertible, acrylic and fluorescent lighting, 99 × 28 × 28 ins/252 × 71 × 71 cm) USD 3,106,500 (premium)

New York, 15 Nov 2009: Loopy (1999, high gloss Fujiflex print in colour, 34 × 25 ins/86 × 63 cm) USD 5,000 (premium)

London, 28 June 2010: Jim Beam Baggage Car (1986, stainless steel and bourbon, 9 × 16½ × 6½ ins/23 × 42 × 16 cm) GBP 634,850 (premium)

London, 30 June 2010: Loopy (1999, oil on canvas, 108 × 79 ins/274 × 201 cm) GBP 3,401,250 (premium)

New York, 10 May 2011: Pink Panther (1988, porcelain, 41 × 20 × 19 ins/104 × 52 × 48 cm) USD 16,882,500 (premium)

New York, 10 Nov 2011: Monkey Train (2007, silkscreen with archival pigmented inkjet on paper, 33 × 26 ins/83.5 × 66 cm) USD 37,500 (premium)

New York, 5 Nov 2012: Balloon Dog (Red) (1995, metallised porcelain multiple, 10½ × 10½ × 4 ins/26 × 26 × 10 cm) USD 6,875 (premium)

New York, 14 Nov 2012: Tulips (1995–2004, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating, 80 × 180 × 205 ins/203 × 457 × 521 cm) USD 33,682,500 (premium)

New York, 11 Nov 2013: Buster Keaton (1988, polychrome wood, 66 × 48 × 27 ins/168 × 122 × 69 cm) USD 4,421,000 (premium)

New York, 12 Nov 2013: Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994–2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating, 121 × 143 × 45 ins/307 × 363 × 114 cm) USD 58,405,000 (premium)

London, 13 Feb 2014: Cracked Egg (Magenta) (in 2 parts) (1994–2006, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating, 65 × 63 × 63 ins/165 × 159 × 159 cm) GBP 14,082,500 (premium)

Chicago, 14 Feb 2014: Puppy (Vase) (1998, white glazed porcelain, 17½ × 11½ × 17½ ins/44 × 29 × 44 cm) USD 16,250 (premium)

Bibliography

  • Carte blanche. Les Courtiers du désir, exhibition catalogue, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, April-May 1987.
  • ‘Interview: Jeff Koons’, in Art Press, no. 151, Paris, October 1990.
  • Muthesius, Angelika/Ammann, Jean-Christophe: Jeff Koons, Benedikt Taschen, Cologne, 1992 (text in French, German and English).
  • Jeff Koons, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco), San Francisco, 1992.
  • Koons, Jeff/Rosenblum, Robert (intro.): The Jeff Koons Handbook, Thames and Hudson, London, Rizzoli, New York, 1992.
  • Sorensen, Jens Erik/Nilsson, John Peter/Schjeldahl, Peter: Jeff Koons, exhibition catalogue, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, 1993 (text in Danish and English).
  • Jeff Koons, exhibition catalogue, Art et Confrontation, Paris, 1997 (text in French and English).
  • Rosenthal, Norman/Bracewell, Michael/Archer, Michael/Schoerner, Norbert: Apocalypse, Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Art, London, 2000.
  • Kellein, Thomas: Jeff Koons: Pictures 1980–2002, Art Publishers, New York, 2002.
  • Zahm, Olivier (preface), and others: Trésors publics, 20 ans de création dans les Fonds régionaux d’art contemporain, Flammarion, Paris, 2003 (text in French and English).
  • Bonami, Francesco/Canarutto, Sarah: Jeff Koons (Supercontemporanea), Electa, Milan, 2006.
  • Holzwarth, Hans Werner (ed.): Koons, Taschen, Cologne, 2007.
  • Archer, Michael: Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, Afterall Books, London, 2011.
  • Bouvier, Raphaël: Jeff Koons: der Künstler als Täufer, Wilhelm Fink, Munich, 2012.
  • Brinkmann, Vinzenz/Pissarro, Joachim/Ulrich, Matthias: Jeff Koons: The Painter & the Sculptor, exhibition catalogue, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung and the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2012.
  • Vischer, Theodora (ed.)/Beyeler, Fondation (ed.): Jeff Koons, Fondation Beyeler, Reihen/Basel, 2012.
  • Curtis, Penelope: The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London, 2014.
  • Rothkopf, Scott: Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Whitney Museum, New York, 2014.