Jeff Koons is an American artist. He was born in 1955 and graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He first worked as a Wall Street commodities broker before picking up the threads of his art career. He started his searing rise back in the 1980’s by using objects from the consumer world. Like Marcel Duchamp with his Readymades and Andy “Campbell Soup” Warhol already did before him, Koons uses the all American iconography such as kitschy toys, cartoons, vacuum cleaners, inflatable plastic flowers, and so on and turns them into controversial high art raising questions about the limits and the conception of art itself. Koons himself has stated that there are no hidden meanings in his works: “A viewer might first see irony in my work but I see none at all”. For him, the creation must simply be taken at face value.
There is sensationalism, exhibitionism and provocation in the Koons phenomenon. In 1991 he married Ilona Staller ("La Cicciolina"), a notorious Italian porn actress, politician and singer who continued to make hard-core pornographic films while in office. The marriage resulted in Koons' sexually explicit Kama Sutra Glass Sculptures first and in a divorce afterwards. Art critics are divided in their views of Koons. For some he is a pioneer and a major artist of historical importance. For others he is a narcissistic self-promoter using kitsch and shock tactics. But in any case the artist draws the attention to himself.
Among Jeff Koons’ most notable artworks are the Balloon Dogs. They exist in 5 “unique” versions (Blue, Magenta, Yellow, Orange, Red) and are made of high chromium stainless steel with a transparent colour coating. They are 121 inches (307,3 cm) high and weigh... a lot although they look as if they could float at any moment. Another of his works, which has also become an icon of the neo-pop style, is his porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Man and monkey are both dressed in a golden suit and gazing with the same empty eyes. For this famous creation he drew his inspiration from a knickknack on display in a tourist store. Koons' works have sold for astronomical prices at auctions. In 2001, one of his 3 Michael Jackson and Bubbles porcelain sculptures sold for $5.6 million.
However, this neo-pop artist is not very dexterous. He scribbles down notes and ideas, which are not carried out by the master himself but by a team of European craftsmen together with the 100 assistants who work at his studio. This results in luxurious quality and flawless execution of his works. In an interview, Koons described his work this way: “I’m basically the idea person. I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people…”. For this reason some of his detractors prefer to call him an entrepreneur rather than an artist.
Marie Gillet & Myriam Carlier