The Whitney Museum Shines a Light on Jeff Koons

Posted by Meehna Goldsmith on Aug 12, 2014 10:25:00 AM

Jeff Koons, Aqui Bacardi, 1986. Oil inks on canvas; 45 x 60 in. (114.3 x 152.4 cm). Ostrow Family Collection. ©Jeff Koons.

Even if you are not in the art world, you are probably familiar with the name Jeff Koons and have seen his artwork. Some of his iconic pieces include Rabbit (1986), Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988) and Balloon Dog (1994-2000). Throughout his 35-year career Koons has become one of the most influential, if controversial, artists of the postwar era.

It is hard to believe that until now Koons has never been the subject of a retrospective to examine the whole scope of his career. The Whitney Museum in New York has curated a remarkable 120 examples of Koons’s work over the timeframe of 1979 to the present, examining the whole scope of his career. It is the most extensive exhibit ever to showcase his groundbreaking work.

Jeff Koons, Split-Rocker (Orange/Red), 1999. Polychromed aluminum; 13 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 13 in. (34.3 x 36.8 x 33 cm). Collection of B. Z. and Michael Schwartz. ©Jeff Koons.

So important is Koons’s influence that for the first time in its history the Whitney has dedicated its space to display the oeuvre of just one artist. Moreover, Koons has the distinction of being the closing finale in the Marcel Breuer building before the Whitney moves to its new location downtown in the Meatpacking District, set to open in 2015.

Not many artists can straddle the fine art world and the common consciousness. Koons has experimented with ideas and techniques in his work that evoke strong emotion. He challenges the concept that art cannot be a member of both a serious art culture as well as a mass culture. Koons has said that he does not infuse any critiques or hidden meanings in his work. Instead, he invites people to contemplate the relationship art has to culture by using common objects such as basketballs, vacuum cleaners and light fixtures.

Jeff Koons, Kangaroo (Red), 1999. Crystal glass, mirrored glass, carbon fiber, foam, colored plastic interlayer, and stainless steel; 92 x 59 x 1 1⁄2 in. (233.7 x 149.9 x 3.8 cm). Private collection; courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York. © Jeff Koons

Like Andy Warhol, Koons has cultivated the status of celebrity, as much known for his art as for his public personality. In addition, he works in a factory setting and employs a large staff of over 100 people to execute his artwork with a method called Art Fabrication. Koons openly admits he is the idea man and does not have the skill set to realize the final pieces.

The show will be arranged in chronological order with the sculptures placed within the thematic series they originated to map the development of Koons’s impressive career. The lobby, 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors as well as the outdoor sculpture garden will host representative examples including Inflatables, Luxury and Degradation, Easyfun, Celebration and Gazing Ball.

Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988. Porcelain; 42 x 70 1⁄2 x 32 1⁄2 in. (106.7 x 179.1 x 82.6 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons

“The incredible range of his materials, subjects, scales, formal approaches, and techniques is virtually unparalleled and will make for a dramatic narrative full of plot twists and discoveries,” says curator and Associate Director of Programs Scott Rothkopf. “It’s hard to think of another living artist who has pushed as many aesthetic and cultural limits as Koons has.”

By putting together these pieces, a story develops that Rothkopf promises will surprise even those initiated in Koons’s work. But the show is not just about what Koons has done but what he is currently doing. He continues to create and explore, flexing his artistic muscles. There will be new pieces to discover and contemplate. Several works will debut, including Play-Doh, which was twenty years in the making.

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Mailbox), 2013. Plaster and glass; 74 1⁄4 x 24 3⁄8 x 41 1⁄2 in. (188.6 x 61.9 x 105.4 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons

Whether or not you connect with Koons’s themes and aesthetic, there is no denying the impact he has made on art in the postwar era. This is a special opportunity to view one of the most influential working artists of our time in a comprehensive context, one you do not want to miss.

Jeff Koons: A Retrospective is on view from June 27th—October 19th at the Whitney Museum in New York before traveling to Centre Pompidou in Paris from November 26th, 2015 to April 27th, 2015 and then to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in summer 2015.

Topics: Museums, Editorial, featured, Whitney Museum, Jeff Koons

Author:Meehna Goldsmith

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