Throughout recent decades, Jeff Koons’ unmistakable work has repeatedly caused a stir. Koons, who is currently the most-expensive living artist, elevates seemingly trivial, everyday objects into art that brings in record sums. In May 2019, his “Rabbit” was auctioned for about $91 million, making the silver sculpture the most expensive artwork ever auctioned off by a living artists. The iconic “Balloon Dog (Orange)”, made of mirror-polished steel, also brought in around $58 million at Christie’s in 2013.
Jeff Koons polarizes the art world with his high-priced pieces. A recent example is his “Bouquet of Tulips”, a design for a 30-ton sculpture he intended to gift to Paris to honor victims of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016. An enormous hand of steel and bronze holding a colorful bouquet of tulips, it was meant to symbolize solidarity between America and France. Artists and cultural proponents resisted the piece, however, and criticized the proposed location between the architecturally significant Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Additionally, there were accusations that the artist himself would not bear the €3 million construction cost himself, but that French and American collectors would be footing the bill. As it stands, the disputed sculpture is set to be unveiled at the end of 2019 on the celebrated Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Time and time again, Jeff Koons grabs our attention with his provocative artworks. He has been known for his conceptual abilities since the late 70s. For one of his early works, he placed a vacuum cleaner in a Plexiglas showcase, using these existing objects as symbols of cleanliness. In 1980, he had his first solo exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. In the years that followed, Koons began to focus more on sculptures with captivating and popular aesthetics, including his post-modern, gilded porcelain piece, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”.
The artistic glorification of everyday objects and the deliberate exhibition of kitsch are common threads throughout Koons’ entire oeuvre. With Jeff Koons, found objects become monumental works of art. Who else could paint such a compelling colorful lump of Play-Doh surrounded by reflective foil or show us the beauty of balloon animals by recreating them with high-end materials? His diverse oeuvre reflects the spectacular connection between pop culture and high culture, while also questioning the meaning of beauty, happiness, truth, and impermanence. His sculptures mesmerize us through illusive materiality, his balloon animals can weigh up to several tons even though they appear light as a feather.
Jeff Koons was born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania. From 1972-1976, he studied art and design at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the Art Institute of Chicago. Koons holds multiple records including being the most-expensive living artist. His work has been exhibited in renowned museums all over the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Gallery in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. Jeff Koons lives and works in New York.