Ever since the late 1980s, Jeff Koons has never ceased to amaze the collectors around the globe with his artworks based on intersectionality and appropriation of popular culture. The maker of lavish Balloon Dogs and pastiche golden sculptures featuring celebrities, as well as the series he made with his former wife, Cicciolina, an Italian adult movie actress, Koons has continually explored the distinction between high and low culture through his Neo Pop practice.
In 2013 Koons produced the Gazing Ball series, which debuted at the Gagosian gallery in New York. For the series, the artist turned to the masters of painting he admires the most, and so he selected thirty-five artworks that underwent his intervention. Namely, each work was repainted in oil on canvas and presented along with a blue glass gazing ball positioned on an aluminum shelf installed in front of the painting. These devices or in other words baubles were hand-blown in Pennsylvania, especially for this purpose.
For this edition of our collectors' tip, we decided to feature ten prints from Jeff Koons' intriguing Gazing Ball series that you can own right now.
Featured image: Jeff Koons - Gazing Ball Manet Olympia. Image courtesy of Eternity Gallery.
The first work from the Gazing Ball series is a reenactment of Gustav Klimt’s best-known painting, the iconic Kiss. This masterpiece painted in between 1907 and 1908 depicts a couple in the flame of passion, and is practically an embodiment of the Art Nouveau style. By inserting the mentioned baubles, Koons wanted to enable the visitor a chance to experience the sensuality of the work in a more lively manner.
Another masterpiece appropriated by Jeff Koons is Delightful Land by Paul Gauguin. This astonishing canvas was produced by the artist in 1892 during his first visit to Tahiti. The standing nude of the Tahitian native woman evokes the sexual desire of Eve in the Garden of Eden, as she touches the flavor as something forbidden. This composition nicely represents Gauguin's fascination with the primitive, which is further accentuated with Koons’ intervention.
The Tiger Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens features, as the title suggests, a hunt for a tiger was made between 1615 and 1616. It belongs to the group of four hunting paintings that were commissioned by Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria for the decoration of the old Schleissheim Palace. Although not presenting a sensual or slightly erotic theme as the two aforementioned masterpieces, this one apparently triggered Koons due to its great symbolic power.
This work from the Gazing Ball series is based on Vincent van Gogh’s A Wheatfield with Cypresses, one of the three versions made by the painter in 1889 while he was stationed at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum near Arles. The work was inspired by the site Van Gogh was exposed to from the window at the asylum. Like all other works, Koons used this landscape motif to explore the notion of view.
Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints) is a reenacted painting The Madonna in Glory with Saints by the Italian Renaissance painter Pietro Perugino made between 1500 and 1501. This sacral composition featuring the standardized theme at the time when the explorations of perspective were popular apparently fascinated Koons to such an extent that he felt it had to be part of the series.
This Gazing Ball artwork features the astounding painting titled Europa by the Flemish Barque master Maerten de Vos. This theme based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses features the god Jupiter who transformed into a bull to abduct Europa, daughter of the Phoenician King Agenor. Again a tale of eroticism is at stake, and Koons gives the observer to examine themselves amid Europa while rethinking the myth.
This Gazing Ball artwork is based on the painting Girl with Dog by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, the famous French artist and the leading proponent of Rococo. The scene depicting, as the title suggests, a girl amusing herself with a dog is frivolous, soft, and indicates the easiness of leisure time. This one as well unravels Koons’ interest in the interpretational potentials of the scene.
The iconic Olympia by Édouard Manet was very shocking after it was showcased for the first time due to its scrupulous content indicative of the social circumstances of 19th-century French society. No wonder Koons decided to appropriate it having in mind the controversial nature of his own work.
Another valuable gem produced by Manet during the same period is the equally subversive Luncheon on the Grass. Aside from the context, the difference between the two paintings is that the first one depicts only women in the interior, while the second depicts two men and two women in the exterior. Like with the other mentioned works, by installing the gazing ball Koons wanted to provoke the viewer in the way she-he-they consume the work, both its historical and contemporary context.
The last artwork from the series features the painting Hercules and Cacus by Hendrick Goltzius. Commissioned by a Haarlem lawyer named Colterman (along with another painting Minerva and Mercury), it depicts the dialog between Theory (Mercury) and practice (Minerva) that leads to skill and virtue that is embodied as Hercules, who slays the evil giant Cacus.