Jeff Koons @ The Whitney

Jeff Koons: A retrospective 

June 27- Oct 19, 2014

Whitney Museum of American Art (New York)

 

Heading off to see Jeff Koons at the Whitney Museum on a Friday evening turned out to be the best decision! I was pleasantly surprised to have avoided the massive crowd, with people usually having to wait in line forever to get in.  However, I can safely say that I did not miss all the nagging and all the sweating in the blistering heat which have now become the trademarks of a successful major art exhibit.

Koons’ show is major for two reasons: 1) it is the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist in New York and 2) it is the final exhibition taking place at the current Whiney Museum before its relocation to the new Renzo Piano-design building in the Meatpacking in 2015. Despite all the negative criticism one can hear about the artist, and despite the fact the we don’t exactly know why or how he was able to become the most expensive living artist while being the one and only man alive who can sell a giant orange balloon dog for $58.4 millions at auction (Christie’s, November 2013), his art can be resumed to one word: pleasure.

For what Koons actually does, is bring to life our childhood fantasies by filling the space with giant colorful balloon dogs, maxi-size Hulk dolls, and gigantic colorful Play-Doh piles. Notwithstanding their amusing appearance, the sculptures are the result of complex ingenious design and intricate labor, often times taking up years and years of production (it took nearly 20 years to construct Play-Doh). The show reaches its peak of popularity also due to the fact that the exhibit is the perfect spot for “art-selfies” with its giant mirror-polished stainless steel magenta, yellow, blue, purple, and orange sculptures!

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994–2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 121 × 143 × 45 in. (307.3 × 363.2 × 114.3 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), 1994–2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating; 121 × 143 × 45 in. (307.3 × 363.2 × 114.3 cm). Private collection. © 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

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

Exposed alongside his “toys,” Koon’s exhibit also includes lustful paintings, lithographs, and sculptures whose natures are from the most perverse imagination. In his “Made in Heaven” series produced in 1989-91, we see couple-portraits of Koons with the famous porn star and Italian parliament member Ilona Staller, best known as La Cicciolina (who later became his wife). The depiction of Jeff and Ilona goes from one extreme to the other: on one hand you see a graceful white marble sculpture of the couple custom-produced in the famous Pietrasanta workshops (where many Michelangelo’s where produced). While on the other hand, the couple is depicted on an oil-inked canvas reenacting a pornographic scene completely nude.

Jeff Koons, Ilona on Top (Rosa Background), 1990. Oil inks on canvas; 96 × 144 in. (243.8 × 365.8 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Ilona on Top (Rosa Background), 1990. Oil inks on canvas; 96 × 144 in. (243.8 × 365.8 cm). Private collection. © Jeff Koons

Koons is the perfect example of a man who made it to the top, in this jungle we call the art world, by bringing to life the most perverse of our fantasies.

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