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Happy Birthday, Jeff Koons!

  • Jeff Koons in New York
January 21, 2019
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

Often described as a king of postmodernism, Jeff Koons is one of the most influential and controversial artists of the post-war era. Working somewhere in between high and low culture, he often creates work inspired by familiar objects and symbols from our everyday lives. Through his practice, he has managed to transform the notion of an artist to the cult of celebrity in the global market. Despite a myriad of controversies surrounding himself and his work, he remains one of the most recognizable and popular figures in contemporary art.

Rising to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists exploring the meaning of art and spectacle in a media-saturated era, Koons cast himself as a populist with an artistic intention to “communicate with the masses.” However, his work has won over the most discerning and ostensibly elitist audiences, making him one of the most expensive living artists.

In his artworks, Jeff Koons plays with ideas of taste, pleasure, celebrity, and commerce. Working with seductive materials, he turns banal objects into high art icons, ingeniously reversing economic logic which forms the basis for his stunning commercial success. Playing with ideas of kitsch and bad taste, his pieces challenge the audience both conceptually and aesthetically, at the same time engaging them in a metaphysical dialogue with cultural history. However, he has always vehemently maintained that there are no hidden meanings in his work. In 1993, Koons commented:

A viewer might at first see irony in my work… but I see none at all. Irony causes too much critical contemplation.

Responding to the increasing demand for his work, Koons set up a factory-style production house in the SoHo district of New York, proclaiming himself as the “idea man” and acquiring dozens of assistants to help him create his pieces. Today, his production house employs upwards of 100 assistants who are able to reproduce works in a style that feels as though they have been produced by “one single hand.” Moving to a new studio at Hudson Yards, Koons has recently made a round of layoffs, the forth at the Jeff Koons studio since 2015.

Today, the controversial artist is turning 64. On that occasion, we have compiled a list of Jeff Koons’s artworks that you can own right now!

Featured image: Jeff Koons in New York via Wiki Commons. All images courtesy of their respective galleries.

  • Balloon Dog (Red), 1995

Balloon Dog (Red), 1995

The piece Ballon Dog (Red) from 1995 references his iconic, monumental sculpture of the same name from his famous Celebration series. For this occasion, Koons mined childhood signifiers such as birthday parties to recreate moments of innocence and fun. Massive and monumental, Koons’s stainless steel Balloon Dog sculptures appear weightless as if they defy gravity. This smaller version of the renowned sculpture is created out of cast porcelain coated with a reflective finish.

See more info about the world here.

  • Balloon Dog (Yellow), 2015

Balloon Dog (Yellow), 2015

Another piece from the Celebration series, Balloon Dog (Yellow) was created in 2015. Commenting on the series of works, Koons explained:

When I made Balloon Dog, I wanted to make a piece that reflected the joy of celebrating a birthday or a party. The Balloon Dog is materialism and monumentality. In many ways, it is like the Trojan horse.

Indeed, the piece evokes the flamboyance and restlessness of toys and childhood memories, as well as the sophistication of a luxury object.

See more info about the work here.

  • Jeff Koons - Balloon Dog (Blue), 2002

Balloon Dog (Blue), 2002

Here is another piece from the Celebration series, this time created in blue. “I’ve always enjoyed balloon animals because they’re like us. We’re balloons. You take a breath and you inhale, it’s optimism. You exhale, and it’s kind of a symbol of death,” Koons once explained. Reflecting disposable culture but in a definitive, substantial form, the works from these series remain amongst some of his most recognizable pieces.

See more info about the work here.

  • Jeff Koons - Pink Bow, 2013

Pink Bow, 2013

Created in 2013, Pink Bow is part of the Celebration series which began in 1994 with the aforementioned Balloon Dog sculptures. Over the years, Koons added Valentine hearts, diamonds, Easter eggs, tulips, and Balloon Flower sculptures. The series also includes sixteen oil paintings, including the Pink Bow.

See more info about the work here.

  • Jeff Koons - Puppy, 1998

Puppy

Jeff Koons’s famously optimistic, kitschy and celebratory approach to contemporary pop art is evident in the humorous and playful work Puppy from 1998. A glazed white porcelain sculpture in the form of a sitting dog, the piece has a secondary function as a working flower vase. As the artist explained himself, “the vase is a symbol of love, warmth, and happiness.” The design itself references the artist’s massive 1992 installation of the same name, which secured his international reputation.

See more info about the work here.