Jeff Koons
A detail from a sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), dated 2013–2019.

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), 2013–2019 (detail)

Studio is an online series highlighting recent works by gallery artists. Focusing on a different solo project each time, the series situates artists’ work in their current studio practices through personal snapshots, audio/video recordings, and reference materials.

This special, expanded edition of Studio illuminated for the first time a large-scale balloon sculpture recently completed by Jeff Koons of the goddess Venus, a figure that has recurred in the artist's work since the 1970s. 

Featuring process videos, the artist's preparatory drawings, and Koon's own voice as a guide, this presentation offers an unprecedented look at his practice and work.

A detail from a sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), dated 2013–2019.

Studio: Jeff Koons

American artist Jeff Koons (b. 1955) is widely regarded for his bold paintings and monumental sculptures that hold a mirror up to contemporary culture. Using the photorealistic and commercial aesthetic familiar from an earlier generation of Pop artists, Koons has generated his own universally recognizable style that frequently comprises smooth, highly reflective surfaces and bright, saturated colors. Koons typically works in series, tapping into subject matter from popular culture and art history that is frequently reminiscent of childhood in order to empower the viewer towards achieving a state of personal transcendence. 

The present work belongs to a Koons's "Hulk Elvis" series—a body of paintings and sculptures begun in 2004, some of which depict The Incredible Hulk, a character first introduced in a 1962 comic book. Koons describes the Hulk Elvis figures as being also inspired by the guardian gods of Eastern philosophy, and as such they are meant to convey tremendous power and testosterone. Made from polychrome bronze, Hulk (Yoke) depicts the superhero in a stereotypical macho pose with his legs apart, hands tightened in fists, and muscles flexed, as though ready for a confrontation or battle. Despite the solidity of the material, the figure appears inflated, with minute creases and folds creating a trompe l'oeil effect that heightens its hyper-realistic appearance. Based on a blow-up toy, anatomical features have been outlined with paint rather than carved, juxtaposing flatness and volume. The figure carries a yoke across his shoulders with buckets of live flowers hanging by a chain from each side. This series marks the first time that Koons has included live flowers as part of indoor sculptures. Their ephemeral delicacy provide a stark contrast to the aggressive demonstration of power by the Hulk figure. 

Koons notes on the tension implicit in his Hulk figures: "I do think that there are many polarities coexisting in a work of art—the more it emulates life, the more real it is. The Hulk is like a guardian god. For these Hulks to have the ability to be a guardian, they have to be able to protect, and to protect means to maintain and shelter and preserve. But at the same time it means they have to have to ability for violence, to be able to withstand any pressure....[T]hat type of tension is part of our day-to-day animal existence, part of what it means to be a human and alive and to be able to survive and to depend on instinct and stay in contact with feelings."¹

¹ Hans Ulrich Obrist, "Interview with Jeff Koons," in Jeff Koons: Hulk Elvis. Exh. cat. (New York: Rizzoli, 2009), p. 126.

Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, which presented almost 150 works from 1978-2014 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, was the most comprehensive exhibition to date of the artist's groundbreaking practice, and his first major museum survey in New York. The exhibition was also the largest ever devoted to a single artist at the Whitney, and the final show to be held at the museum's historic Madison Avenue location prior to its move to the Meatpacking District in 2015. Organized by Scott Rothkopf, Curator and Associate Director of Programs at the Whitney Museum, the exhibition traveled to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in 2014-2015.

By reconstituting all of Koons's most iconic works and significant series in a chronological narrative, the retrospective allowed visitors to understand his remarkably diverse output as a multifaceted whole. "He's a marvelous artist," said Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker, "a master with formidable aesthetic intelligence and a very great deal of nerve." Writing in The New York Times, Roberta Smith described the exhibition as "lucid, challenging, [and] brilliantly installed."

A fully illustrated publication accompanying the exhibition includes texts by Scott Rothkopf, Antonio Damasio, Jeffrey Deitch, Isabelle Graw, Achim Hochdörfer, Michelle Kuo, Rachel Kushner, Pamela M. Lee, Alexander Nagel, and James Surowiecki. Also included are preparatory sketches and plans for selected works, as well as installation photographs that shed light on the artist's process and development. Published by the Whitney Museum of American Art

Gazing Ball was published on the occasion of the artist's first solo exhibition at David Zwirner. Held in New York in 2013, the show marked the international debut of the Gazing Ball series.

In this body of work, large plaster sculptures modeled after iconic works from the Greco-Roman era and quotidian objects such as garden ornaments are each anchored by a blue "gazing ball" of hand-blown glass. These are conceptually derived from the mirrored ornaments of the kind seen on suburban lawns, including those of Koons's childhood hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Created in close collaboration with the artist, this fully illustrated publication echoes the classic design of a Picasso catalogue from 1970 admired by Koons, and features an essay by Francesco Bonami. "While all of the sculptures are grounded in their own distinct narratives, derived from art history and suburban towns," Bonami writes, "the seemingly fragile and delicate gazing ball establishes that sense of uncertain equilibrium that exists between history and fantasy, magic and materiality, mass culture and exclusive beauty."

Published by David Zwirner Books

"Left: a sculpture by Marcel Duchamp, titled Roue de Bicyclette, dated 1913 Right: a sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series), dated 1985.

May 19–September 29, 2019

Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even presented more than seventy works by both artists. The exhibition was curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Artistic Director at the New Museum in New York.

The exhibition at Museo Jumex, according to the press release, placed the work of Koons and Duchamp "side by side, as in a hall of mirrors that reflects, distorts, and amplifies the artists’ similarities and differences within a complex ‘regime of coincidences,’ to borrow one of Duchamp’s peculiar expressions." The exhibition’s title, too, borrows from Duchamp’s famous work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915–1923).

"It is a unique opportunity to be able to bring together the work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons," Gioni states; "Appearance Stripped Bare is less preoccupied with grafting family trees than with understanding how our attitudes toward objects have changed over the past century, and how the objects that we surround ourselves with are reflections of our desires."

The show was accompanied by a daylong conference at IFAL, the French Institute of Latin America, on May 18, starting at 10:30 AM. A full program of conversations featuring curators, scholars, and writers includes Jeffrey Deitch, who has worked frequently with Koons and who contributed an essay to the Whitney Museum’s retrospective catalogue, and Francis Naumann, a New York–based scholar specializing in Duchamp and New York Dada.

Listen to Koons in conversation with Luke Syson, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Dialogues: The David Zwirner Podcast.

Image: Left: Marcel Duchamp. Roue de Bicyclette, 1913. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo: NGC. © MARCEL DUCHAMP / ADAGP / SOMAAP / MÉXICO / 2019. Right: Jeff Koons, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series), 1985

December 2–3

Gallery artists Carol Bove, Jeff Koons, and Raymond Pettibon participated in Who's Afraid of the New Now?, a series of public conversations between artists whose work has shaped the identity of the New Museum in New York as part of the museum's 40th anniversary celebrations.

The title of the series referenced a work by Allen Ruppersberg, whose first New York survey exhibition was held at the museum in 1985. The talks took place on December 2 and December 3, 2017.

The conversation between George Condo and Jeff Koons was covered in ARTNEWS, including sound bites from Koons about his debut exhibition in New York—"I wanted people to have a feeling of coming across something that was in some ways better prepared to survive than yourself"—and Condo's recollections of working for Andy Warhol's Factory.

Earlier in 2017, the New Museum presented the major solo exhibition Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work, featuring over seven hundred drawings from the 1960s to the present and marking the artist's first museum survey in New York. In 2016, The Keeper featured a sculptural installation by Carol Bove created in response to the work of Carlo Scarpa. The New Museum also presented The New—Jeff Koons's first solo exhibition in New York—in 1980.

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