Born on January 21, 1955, in York, Pennsylvania, Jeff Koons studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art (BFA 1976), in Baltimore and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Since his emergence in the 1980s Jeff Koons has blended the concerns and methods of Pop, Conceptual, and appropriation art with craft-making and popular culture to create his own unique art iconography, often controversial and always engaging. His work explores contemporary obsessions with sex and desire; race and gender; and celebrity, media, commerce, and fame. A self-proclaimed “idea man,” Koons hires artisans and technicians to make the actual works. For him, the hand of the artist is not the important issue: “Art is really just communication of something and the more archetypal it is, the more communicative it is.””
Koon’s moved to New York in 1977 where he began working at the membership desk of the Museum of Modern Art. He quickly became known for his outrageous hair and clothing, and for his salesmanship. During this time, he created sculptures using inflatable flowers, and rabbits mixed with plastic, plexiglass, and mirrors. In order to finance his “The New” series, Koons left MoMA in 1980 to sell mutual funds and stocks at First Investors Corporation. This series featured vacuum cleaners and shampoo polishers encased in plexiglass atop fluorescent lights.
In 1985, Koon’s presented his “Equilibrium” series which included sculptures made of basketballs floating in tanks of water, or encased in glass. In 1986, Koons’ 41 inch high stainless steel rabbit gained a great deal of critical attention. His “Luxury and Degradation” series in 1986 depticts “consumerist decadence” and featured images of liquor advertisements and stainless steel renderings of liquor travel bars. In his “Banality” series of 1988, Koons expanded on the “Luxury and Degradation” series producing sculptures including Michael Jackson and Bubbles the monkey, as well as a series of “ads” where Koons mocks himself and his own celebrity. His “Made in Heaven” series in 1990 depicts the artist with his wife, Ilona Staller, in a variety of hard-core pornographic poses.
Since the mid 1990’s, Koons has continued to produce sculpture but has also focused on paintings that contain pop-culture references as well more abstract composition.
Criticism of Koons’ work is varied. “Some view his work as pioneering and of major art-historical importance. Others dismiss his work as kitsch: crass and based on cynical self-merchandising”.
Since his first solo exhibition in 1980, Koons’s work has been shown in major galleries and institutions throughout the world. His work is the subject of a major exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective (June 27 – October 19, 2014), which traveled to the Centre Pompidou Paris (November 26, 2014 – April 27, 2015) and the Guggenheim Bilbao (June 12 – September 27, 2015). Recent exhibitions in Europe include Jeff Koons in Florence installed at Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy (September 25 – December 28, 2015) and Balloon Venus (Orange), which is currently on view in the rotunda of the Natural History Museum Vienna, Austria (September 30 – March 13, 2016). Gazing Ball Paintings, Koons’s most recent series, was exhibited for the first time at Gagosian Gallery, New York (November 12 – December 23, 2015).
For more information, visit JeffKoons.com. (all images copyright © Jeff Koons)