I had the pleasure of visiting the Whitney Museum of American Art last Wednesday for the exhibit Jeff Koons: A Retrospective. This exhibit is one of the largest and most expensive the museum has ever shown. It also consumes more space for a single exhibit with about 4 floors filled with Jeff Koons artwork. The installation of the show took three weeks, with crews working seven days a week in 11-hour shifts. The expense of this exhibit comes from insurance and shipping and re fabricating, all sculptures are very delicate. This is the last exhibit before the museum moves to the meatpacking district next year.
The restaurant downstairs of the Whitney, with a cool Koons piece high above on the wall. Being there on a Wednesday didn't matter, the line was wrapped around the museum by noon time. They open at 11am, and I decided to see how long it would take me to get through the line. I thought it was a good idea to let only so many folks in, so you could enjoy the exhibit a bit better. The line went rather quick, the exhibit was amazing and I would tell you to run to see it if this is your thing, it closes on October 19, 2014.
Koons was drawn to vacuum cleaners in part because of their association with breathing and their intense psychological connections: “Vacuum cleaners to me were anthropomorphic. . . . They had this sexual reference, having orifices and a sucking power, and their shapes can be both masculine and feminine. It’s probably one of the most aggressive machines you come across if you are one year old and lying around on the floor when your mother is vacuum cleaning.” Koons sometimes emphasized these sexual associations by using wet/dry models and grouping the appliances in a “family unit” that encourages viewers to draw comparisons between the examples. In this work, he juxtaposed what he considered the feminine form of the round canister with the more masculine, even phallic, shape of the uprights. Bathed in cool and eerie light, they become strangely humanoid devices.** wording from the exhibit
Jeff Koons, Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), 1979. Vinyl and mirrors; 32 × 25 × 19 in. (81.3 × 63.5 × 48.3 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Elephant, 2003. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 36 1⁄2 x 29 × 19 in. (92.7 × 73.7 × 48.3 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Poodle, 1991. Polychromed wood; 23 × 39 1⁄2 x 20 1⁄2 in. (58.4 × 100.3 × 52.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner P. 2011.212. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Bear and Policeman, 1988. Polychromed wood; 85 × 43 × 37 in. (215.9 × 109.2 × 94 cm). Artist’s proof. Collection of Jeffrey Deitch. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, String of Puppies, 1988. Polychromed wood; 42 × 62 × 37 in. (106.7 × 157.5 × 94 cm). Private collection; courtesy Hauser & Wirth. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Amore, 1988. Porcelain; 32 × 20 × 20 in. (81.3 × 50.8 × 50.8 cm). Lehmann-Art Ltd. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988. Porcelain; 42 × 70 1⁄2 x 32 1⁄2 in. (106.7 × 179.1 × 82.6 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Saint John the Baptist, 1988. Porcelain; 56 1⁄2 x 30 × 24 1⁄2 in. (143.5 × 76.2 × 62.2 cm). Edition no. 3/3. The Sonnabend Collection, Nina Sundell, and Antonio Homem. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Ushering in Banality, 1988. Polychromed wood; 38 × 62 × 30 in. (96.5 × 157.5 × 76.2 cm). Private Collection. ©Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Louis XIV, 1986. Stainless steel; 46 × 27 × 15 in. (116.8 × 68.6 × 38.1 cm). Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas. ©Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Metallic Venus, 2010–12. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating and live flowering plants; 100 × 52 × 40 in. (254 × 132.1 × 101.6 cm). Private collection; courtesy Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus (Orange), 2008–12. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 102 × 48 × 50 in. (259.1 × 121.9 × 127 cm). Collection of the artist. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Hulk (Organ), 2004–14. Polychromed bronze and mixed media; 93 1⁄2 x 48 5⁄8 x 27 7⁄8 in. (237.5 × 123.5 × 70.8 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica. © Jeff Koons
In contrast to the perfect smoothness and largely monochromatic palette of many sculptures in Celebration, this one represents an enormous craggy mound of Play-Doh. The material is one of the first that American children use to make simple artworks, and Koons remembers his son proudly presenting him with a Play–Doh sculpture. Yet here the freedom, confidence, and spontaneity of the boy’s initial gesture ironically prompted one of the most complex sculptures Koons has ever made, requiring two decades to fabricate. The sculpture was first conceived in polyethylene but was ultimately fashioned from twenty-seven individual interlocking pieces of painted aluminum, unveiled for the first time in this retrospective. The mountain of Play-Doh may call to mind scatological associations or geological forms, but for Koons, it’s also “a very joyous, very pop material.” A perfect replica of an offhand creation, Play-Doh plays with the distinction between abstraction and representation, while serving as a monument to childlike imagination. ** wording from the exhibit
Jeff Koons, Play-Doh, 1994–2014. Polychromed aluminum; 120 × 108 × 108 in. (304.8 × 274.3 × 274.3 cm). Bill Bell Collection. © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons, Cake, 1995–97. Oil on canvas; 125 3⁄8 x 116 3⁄8 in. (318.5 × 295.6 cm). Private collection. © Jeff KoonsHERE.
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective is organized by Scott Rothkopf, Nancy and Steve Crown Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs.
The exhibition travels to the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (November 26, 2014–April 27, 2015) and to the Guggenheim Bilbao (June 5–September 27, 2015).
Today's Words of Wisdom: The first thing that any good artist has to develop is a sense of independence from the artworld. What really destroys a young artist is insecurity, the fear that everything could be taken away at any moment. (Jeff Koons)