Shiny steel metallic sculptures, kitsch figurines and everyday cleaning apparatus are just some of the objects you can expect to encounter when you spend a day in the world of American artist Jeff Koons...
Shiny steel metallic sculptures, kitsch figurines and everyday cleaning apparatus are just some of the objects you can expect to encounter when you spend a day in the world of American artist Jeff Koons. For his first Swiss solo museum presentation at the prestigious Fondation Beyeler just outside Basel, this exhibition successfully brings together many of the key aspects of Koons’ oeuvre, a body of work which has been amassed over a career that spans more than 25 years.
The exhibition, which comprises over 50 works, is divided into three groups; The New (created between 1980-87), Banality (1988) and Celebration (from 1994 until the present day), each of which delineates important developments in the artist’s career. Moving chronologically through the exhibition, our journey begins with The New, an intriguing series of readymade sculptures that presents factory-new vacuum cleaners and other appliances under supermarket-style fluorescent lights, offering them as beacons of the pure and the ideal.
In contrast to the clinicalness of the first grouping, the Banality series created in the late 80s features gaudy figurines crafted from porcelain and wood, such as the haunting Michael Jackson and Bubbles, and Ushering in Banality, which make up Koons’ own interpretations of the traditional.
"The final and most spectacular series, Celebration, is literally that, a celebration of the shiny, the kitsch, and the ostentatious"
The final and most spectacular series, Celebration, is literally that, a celebration of the shiny, the kitsch, and the ostentatious. On the surface (and in this instance, we literally mean the surface) bold, oversized sculptures crafted in highly reflective metallic steel, such as the infamous Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta), 1994–2006 (a work which has previously set world records at auction) and the iconic Balloon Dog (Red), 1994–2000, gleefully reflect the juxtaposing surroundings of the beautiful yet somewhat austere museum rooms.
Throughout this comprehensive survey of work that is still evolving to the present day, Koons expertly blurs the lines between popular and high culture, whilst still managing to make us smile.
Jeff Koons is on display at the Fondation Beyeler, Switzerland, until 2nd September 2012.
Text by Siobhan Andrews