Absolute Value / From the Collection of Marie and Jose Mugrabi (solo show)
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv
10 March – 10 October 2020
Regarded by many as the most important, influential, popular, and controversial living artist in the world, Jeff Koons is a unique cultural phenomenon, whose resonances and influences extend far beyond the confines of the art world.
Koons (born 1955, York, Pennsylvania, USA) is the foremost of the American Neo-Pop artists who emerged in the 1980s and explored the meaning of art and spectacle in a media-saturated era, while adopting an aesthetics that accentuates the consumption culture that came to the fore at this time. The exhibition presents a selection of large-scale works from different periods in Koons’s career, from the 1980s to the present. The works are from the artist’s most renowned series, spanning his diverse spectrum of mediums and techniques.
Koons’s work undercuts the division between “good taste” and “bad taste,” mixing together “high” with “low” culture and kitsch. He continues the trajectory of 1960s Pop artists by making — with unprecedented intensity — an incriminating and fetishistic connection between art and the world of commodities. In his early career, Koons operated within the tradition started by Marcel Duchamp, presenting readymade objects, such as vacuum cleaners and basketballs, within illuminated display cases — thereby elevating commercial and domestic objects and highlighting the allure of new products. Later on in his career, various colorful kitsch images replaced the industrial products: puppies, flowers, teddy-bears, piglets, or other playthings made of porcelain or wood by craftsmen on Koons’ behalf. Koons further developed his practice of appropriating imagery from popular culture by inflating simple objects to huge dimensions in stainless steel, marble, or other materials. Other sculptures featured, in overblown extravagance, celebrities (such as Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga), inflatable pool toys, or cartoon characters (such as Popeye and the Hulk — themselves figures of bulging masculinity). These works were produced with extreme perfectionism, giving them an almost religious aura and rendering them highly coveted objects of desire for art collectors and the general public alike.
Absolute value is a mathematical concept, denoting size in numerical terms: the absolute value of a number is the distance between it and the zero point on the number axis. The use of this notion in the exhibition’s title raises the question of value as a fundamental notion in Koons’s art, and highlights the long controversy over the attribution of value (or lack thereof) to artistic objects (echoing the question of “Is it art?” asked with regard to Duchamp’s Fountain, which is a standard urinal). The concept also finds expression in Koons’s practice of merging together symbolic value and economic value, thereby creating an arena in which one cannot – and possibly shouldn’t — tell them apart. Not least, the title reflects a search for an imaginary distance (absolute value) within the span of art history, of which Koons’s art is both a part and deviation.
The “Jeff Koons phenomenon” precedes Jeff Koons’s actual works and the physical encounter with them. There are few artists whose works are so etched into the collective cultural memory that an encounter with any single artwork of theirs is suffused with associations of all the others. The title therefore posits Koons himself — the artist and the phenomenon — as an axiom of contemporary art: a controversial artist, who is also a phenomenon that cannot be dismissed, a genius, and a symbol of an era.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Glenn Brown, Jeff Koons et al.
Inspiration – Iconic Works (group show)
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (20 February – 17 May 2020)
Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki (19 June – 20 September 2020)
Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery and Nationalmuseum, Sweden, are producing together an exhibition Iconic Works which addresses the formation of the art history through certain key images reused and reinterpreted by artists to this day. The building blocks of the visual DNA of Western art can be traced back to a number of signature pieces, so-called iconic works, like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Rembrandt's The Night Watch that still have strong relevance in today's world.
Interestingly, these few key images have played a leading role in the canon of art history – no matter if we look at the earliest publications or the latest versions on the same issue. The art historical narrative was shaped hand in hand with collecting and display practices of the emerging museum institutions in the 19th-century Europe.
The exhibition tells the story of the iconic works: what they were and where they emerged as well as why and how they continue on influencing the contemporary art scene. Accordingly, it shows influence of museum sites, such as Glyptothek in Munich, Altes Museum in Berlin and South Kensington Museum (now Victoria & Albert Museum) in London.
The curators of the show are Dr. Susanna Pettersson, art historian and director general, Nationalmuseum, Sweden, and James Putnam, museum historian and independent author curator, with Sointu Fritze, chief curator, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery as co-curator. A major catalogue and conference program will accompany the exhibition.
Contemporary artists Glenn Brown, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Nancy Fouts, Mark Karasick, Jeff Koons, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Gavin Turk, among many others, introduce their modern-day versions of iconic works from Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, Francisco Goya, Michelangelo, Nicolas Poussin and Titian, just to mention a few examples.
In addition, Berlin-based photographer Ola Kolehmainen brings historical museums and their stunning spaces on view. The exhibition also includes selected plaster casts, academy studies and painted copies of the old masters' works showing similarities between all museum collections nowadays.
Glenn Brown Studio
Ateneum Art Museum
Jeff Koons, Albert Oehlen et al.
FOREVER YOUNG — 10 Jahre Museum Brandhorst (group show)
Museum Brandhorst, Munich
24 May 2019 - 26 April 2020
The museum’s tenth birthday in May 2019 is the occasion for an exhibition of its expanded collection. “Forever Young – 10 Years Museum Brandhorst” traces an arc ranging from the 1960s to present day art production, and combines many new acquisitions of recent years with the collection’s more familiar highlights.
The exhibition includes some 250 works by 44 artists and has three main themes: The first is Pop art, and especially its often overlooked political dimension. The second strand is dedicated to the thorny topic of subjectivity in the present day—and therefore also the question of how late capitalism influences identities. The third section turns to one of the Museum Brandhorst’s key strengths: Contemporary painting and the issue of how this traditional artistic genre renews itself time and again. With “Painting 2.0: Painting in the Information Age” the museum has formulated important theses on this in recent years, and continued it in many well respected individual exhibitions, such as “Wade Guyton: The New York Studio”, “Kerstin Brätsch: Innovation” and “Jutta Koether – Tour de Madame”. Especially for the anniversary, the gallery presenting Twombly’s rose paintings can be seen once again in its original form as envisaged by the artist. A prominent new acquisition is also presented from his very last work series, “Camino Real”, 2011. With its red, yellow and orange loops on a bright-green background, the painting ranks among Twombly’s most color-intensive works from a career spanning more than 60 years.
The exhibition is on display from May 24, 2019 to April 2020, and is accompanied by a diverse public program with lectures, talks, workshops, exhibition tours and performances.