Jeff Koons: 5 of his best

Jeff Koons: 5 of his best

Jeff Koons is a name that will forever be etched in contemporary art history. The American artist is best known for his work with popular culture and his longtime fascination with the ‘kitsch’, which he describes as "an enjoyment of things that are not necessarily considered art." Whilst the majority of his works are often described as exuberant, flashy, and colorful, Koons gives them a unique sense of dynamism by choosing to also fill them with tension, mystery, and seduction.

Koons’ body of work largely falls into a number of different series, many of which have earned him international fame. Here, we detail our top 5.

Inflatables Series

Koons's early work was in the form of conceptual sculpture and installation art. In 1978, he created a series of inflatables that incorporated commercial products such as inflatable flowers and rabbits of different heights and colors. Koons used these objects to draw attention to the consumer culture surrounding him while also questioning its values.

The ‘Inflatables’ Series is one of Koons’ most famous collections, which spanned from 1978 to 1986. The series helped launch his career as an artist and secured his place as one of the leaders in the Pop art movement.

 

This body of work also brought him national attention when exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City in 1980, leading to his first solo exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York City.

Equilibrium Series

Made in 1983, the series consisted of basketballs, Spalding brand NBA Official Game Balls, floating in distilled water inside glass tanks. The basketballs are suspended in what Koons calls "a state of pure potentiality" and described as seeming "frozen in time."

The works reflect Koons' interest in dualities, namely life/death and male/female. All three pieces were included in his first solo exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery.

 

Statuary series

The "Statuary" series from 1986 is one of Koons's best-known bodies of work. The series comprises ten sculptures formally based on classical Greek and Roman figures but were given a modern twist using mirrored surfaces. For example, three of the sculptures in the series were based on reproductions of a 4th-century BC Greek bronze sculpture called "Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus," which depicts two female warriors and a male figure. Koons's version featured two female figures and a male, but the new male figure had been replaced with a mirror that reflects the original battle scene.

The series was created after Koons embarked on extended experimentation with mirrored glass and reflective materials. Prior to this, he had used reflective materials as part of his famous sculpture Made In Heaven (1989), which featured cartoon-like images of himself and his then-wife Ilona Staller, a pornstar who went by her stage name "La Cicciolina." When Koons revisited this concept for Statuary however, rather than using the cartoonish imagery that was often associated with him; he focused on classical Greek and Roman statues using reflective material.

Puppy

In 1992, Koons presented Puppy, a tall topiary sculpture of 43 ft. (13 m). The piece is composed of a steel substructure with an internal piping system that supplies water to its thousands of live flowering plants.

It was first exhibited in Germany at the Documenta IX art exhibition in 1992. Later, it was installed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of The Met's roof garden project between 2000 – 2001. It was also exhibited in Bilbao from September 2003 until January 2004 as one of the largest exhibits at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Celebration Series

The Celebration Series is a series of large-scale sculptures that consist of various media works, including mirror-polished stainless steel, painted resin, and vibrant polished colors. Koons have often said that he considers his Celebration series to be his best work. Koons told Charles Gaines in a 1993 interview: "I think my art is about looking at the world and being able to find the beauty in it."

He told Roberta Smith of the New York Times in 1997 that Celebration was "a reflection on our existence—the ways we find to validate ourselves. There are many ways to be validated. Children's birthday parties provide one way."

While Koons' earlier work, such as Equilibrium, had been more abstract and personal, Celebration is an example of his interest in expanding his work to include everyday experiences and objects to which everyone could relate to.

The series is notable for its use of kitsch imagery in inflatable toys, balloon animals, and other objects that are recognized as "low art" or "pop culture." These are presented in a sophisticated manner that seeks to elevate their status as fine art.

Conclusion

Koons's artworks present familiar things to us in a way that shows how we can relate to them. He focuses on the human element of popular culture, often presenting famous people and their toys or things they use to make them feel powerful. Koons’ energy and passion are directed toward transforming certain aspects of real excitement into immaculately crafted, highly ordered systems that go beyond everyday experience.

Furthermore, having many of his works being life-sized further immerses the viewer in the realm of playthings and serving as a commentary on the role of mass culture in everyday life.

"What I seek most is visual impact” – Koons