Jeff Koons

Selected Works

The Pre-New

"In the Pre-New I was manipulating objects. I was not maintaining the objects' integrity. I would glue a teapot to plastic tubes or put a bolt through the back of a coffee percolator. What was important in this work is that it liberated me from my own subjective sexuality. I was taking my work into the realm of the objective. I was distancing myself from my own sexuality."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons. The Handbook, Schirmer-Mosel, 1992



The New

From his early works with inflatable flowers set off by mirrors to his current monumental sculpture, Koons has drawn on the study of display and the sociology of aesthetics that he absorbed in his father's (interior design) shop. This fascination is manifest in his use of fluorescent tubes and acrylic boxes in his encased vacuum-cleaner sculptures, whose allure is enhanced by their dramatic illumination. The spotless acrylic also emphasizes the aesthetic concept for which the series is named, The New. Koons observed how people cherished 'the new', sometimes not even opening the box in order to preserve an object's 'newness'. In the optimistic period of Koons's youth and America's ascendance, the new usually was regarded as better.

Jeffrey Deitch, York to New York in Jeff Koons. A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2014

Three Ball 50/50 Tank

1985
glass, steel, distilled water, basketballs
153,7 x 128,8 x 33,7 cm
© Jeff Koons

Equilibrium

"The tanks are ultimate states of being and for me they are also the beginning of artificial intelligence. Due to vibration, the basketballs move. This changes the pattern of information communicated between them. This is the beginning of independent thought patterns."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Taschen, 1992



Luxury & Degradation

"In Luxury and Degradation the objects are given an artificial luxury, an artificial value, which transforms them completely, changing their function, and, to a certain extent, decriticalizing them. My surface is very much a false front for an underlying degradation."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Taschen, 1992



Statuary

"Statuary presents a panoramic view of society: on one side there is Louis XIV and on the other side there is Bob Hope. If you put art in the hands of a monarch it will reflect his ego and eventually become decorative. If you put art in the hands of the masses, it will reflect mass ego and eventually become decorative. If you put art in the hands of Jeff Koons it will reflect my ego and eventually become decorative."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Taschen, 1992



Kiepenkerl

"I felt I was participating in the European life style. I was being liberated to go into the World of Allegory. There was more story-telling in Europe. The Kiepenkerl piece was about Self-Sufficiency. I always liked the hare on the sculpture, because of Joseph Beuys.

But when I made the piece it was a total disaster... A foundry made it, and when they pulled the stainless steel out of the oven to kock the ceramic shell off it they banged it up against the wall while it was still molten. And, of course, every aspect of the piece was bent and deformed. It was like Humpty Dumpty. Either I had to pull out of the exhibition or I had to give this piece a radical plastic surgery. I decided on the radical surgery. So we had a specialist brought in who was an absolutely phenomenal man with steel. He could do anything by rebending and recovering the shapes to fit back together again. 
This work liberated me. I was free now to work with objects that did not necessarily pre-exist. I could create models."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Taschen, 1992

Ushering in Banality

1988
polychromed wood
96,5 x 157,5 x 76,2 cm
© Jeff Koons

Banality

Ushering in Banality stands as the signature motif for the entire Banality series, as it is the only work which actually includes the word 'banality' in the title. This sculpture, perfectly scarved in refined polychromed wood, represents a large pig with a green ribbon, led by two winged cherubs on either side in blue and yellow dresses, being pushed from behind by a boy in a red and black ski-suit. As the artist explains: "With Ushering in Banality I felt that God was on my side and that I really didn‘t care what anybody thought of this work. I think of this as autobiographical. That little boy in the back is me, I was ushering in banality. I felt that what I was doing was very moral, that's why these cherubs are there."  The work represents the true meaning of 'banality': the animal embodies triviality and the sculpture is an example of the use of 'low culture' in post-modern art. With its bright colors and the skilled rendering, this tableau is a collage of various elements: "Everything is a metaphor for the viewer's cultural guilt and shame. Art can be a horrible discriminator. It can be used either to be uplifting and to give self-empowerment, or to debase people and disempower them." 

Elena Geuna, Face to Face in Jeff Koons. Versailles, Éditions Xavier Barral, 2008

Installation view, Jeff Koons, Made in Heaven, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, 1991

Made in Heaven

"I'm dealing with the subjective and the objective. Modernism is subjective. I use modernism as a metaphor for sexuality without love – a kind of masturbation. And that's modernism. Sex with love is a higher state. It's an objective state, in which one lives and enters the eternal, and I believe that's what I showed people. There was love there. That‘s why it wasn't pornographic."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Taschen, 1992

Tulips

1995-2004
mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating
203,2 x 457,2 x 520,7 cm
© Jeff Koons

Celebration

"I prefer beneficial things in life. If I were a plant, I would want to receive sunlight and I would want to receive water and nutrition from the earth, I wouldn‘t want to not receive sunlight, not enough water or be placed with a bad environment. The reasons why I like archetypes so much, is that for some reason they communicate completely across cultures. I like archetypes, because they help people survive. So they are beneficial."

Jeff Koons in Jeff Koons, Fondation Beyeler, 2012

Installation view, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2000

Easyfun

When contemplating Bear or Donkey, the viewer is confronted first and foremost with their own likeness in the mirror. The work itself gives nothing away. As Koons says, "it's about being able to create a work that helps liberate people from judgement". Instead of creating stable meaning or fixed judgement, Koons earnestly attempts to deflate the traditional, humanist expectations of art. Understood as an opacity machine, his work builds up layer after layer of transparent or legible associations build up to the point that no interpretation can stick. Any definitive or fixed elucidation slides off because Koons's paintings and sculptures do not offer any ideological grips. Being open and simultaneously empty, Easyfun is an impenetrable object that serves to unveil the societal expectations of art.

Alison Gingeras, The Comeback of Sincerity: Jeff Koons 1995-2001 in Jeff Koons, Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2001

Split-Rocker

2000
stainless steel, soil, geotextile fabric, internal irrigation system, live flowering plants
1135 x 1227 x 1086 cm
© Jeff Koons

Split-Rocker

Why does this huge floral figure fill us with such astonishment? For a start we are taken aback by a sheer abandon of its proportions. We are reminded of our childhood when everything was always bigger than us. Houses, animals, people, trees: we had to look up to everything around us. Now we have a flashback to that incredulous amazement, to the dinosaurs in our lives back then. And we are fascinated by a sense of physical disparity, of differentness. Yet, although we can pick a flower from the gigantic sculpture, keep it in our hand, smell it and although we can grasp a hold of it, this does not alter the basic fact: a huge mound of flowers towers over us. It is an ambiguous monster – half dinosaur, half rocking horse, and it is alive.

Günther Vogt in Jeff Koons, Fondation Beyeler, 2012

Installation view, Jeff Koons, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2008

Easyfun-Ethereal

The Easyfun-Ethereal cited above shows especially well how masterly Koons plunders a plethora of different techniques and how skilled he is at maneuvering between the perils of losing himself in one of them or yielding to its message. In these paintings, especially, he succeeds in carrying out a daring balancing act between artistic montage and modern information technology.

Gudrun Inboden, "Life will be a close-up" in Jeff Koons, Galerie Max Hetzler, 2008

Metallic Venus

2010-2012
mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating and live flowering plants
254 x 132,1 x 101,6 cm
edition of 3 plus 1 AP
© Jeff Koons

Antiquity

Indeed, in his Antiquity series, Jeff Koons tackles most directly the themes of acceptance, humanity and essential life patterns that repeatedly surface throughout his career. These themes are related not only via a discourse with art history, as Koons incorporates images from a wide swath of creative production, including, as the series' title alludes, imagery of ancient statuary; but also universally, as Koons poses questions about acceptance and history on a broader, perhaps the broadest, scale.
As the artist himself states: "I start with a sense of contemporary time and make references to different artists such as Lichtenstein or Dalí through to Manet, Renaissance artists, or the greatest artists of antiquity, like Praxiteles and Apelles. The aspect is the acceptance of how we exist, how nature procreates, and how we are able to sustain life."

Joachim Pissaro, Jeff Koons's Antiquity Series. A reflection on Acceptance in Jeff Koons. The Painter, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2012



Gazing Ball Sculptures

Koons has returned to York for the inspiration of his most recent series, the Gazing Ball sculptures. It is a tradition in York, perhaps brought to this part of Pennsylvania by German immigrants in the nineteenth century, to mount a reflective glass globe on a pillar in front of one's home. Koons admires the display of gazing balls as an example of artistic generosity. He is intrigued by the way people make this special efforts to share an aesthetic experience with their neighbors. He enjoys going on hunts with his children, trying to spot them as he speeds along the winding country roads. It is typical of the Jeff Koons way of seeing the world that the favorite lawn ornament of York County can also be understood as an abstract form. He describes his Gazing Ball sculptures as exploration of the Platonic ideal. He has found the path to ideal form in the front yards of his rural neighbors.

Jeffrey Deitch, York to New York in Jeff Koons. A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2014