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Jeff Koons

Portrait of Jeff Koons. Photo by Craig McDean.

Jeff Koons was born on January 21, 1955 in York, Pennsylvania. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before transferring to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where he received his BFA in 1976. In 1977, Koons moved to New York, taking a job at the membership desk at the Museum of Modern Art. It was also at this time he began establishing himself as an artist.

Koons rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists who were interested in the effects of spectacle in a media-saturated era. Using everyday objects, such as basketballs and vacuum cleaners, and ubiquitous motifs such as balloon animals and advertisements, Koons mines popular culture to transform the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity, explore ideas of appropriation, and test the boundaries between art and mass culture. 

Koons typically works in series, the earliest of which, The New (1980-1983) comprised of vacuum cleaners and shampoo polishers displayed in clear Plexiglass vitrines, transforming these everyday household items into something to be revered, and elevating these newest of household devices to the status of high art. In 1985, he began his Equilibrium series, in which basketballs were suspended in tanks of water. In 1986, Koons started to explore ideas of consumerist decadence in his Luxury and Degradation series, comprised of reproductions of popular liquor advertisements and sculptural renderings of travel bars. Koons continued this theme through his Banality series, begun in 1988, featuring sculptures of celebrities such as Michael Jackson and his pet chimpanzee Bubbles, and ads featuring the artist himself that attempted to play on his newfound art-world celebrity. 

Jeff Koons in his studio, 1997. Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth/Art+Commerce. Artwork © 2020 Jeff Koons.

The apex of this investigation was his Made in Heaven series (1990-1991). First shown at the Venice Biennale in 1990, the series is comprised of paintings and sculptures of Koons and his then-wife, porn star Ilona Staller, in various explicit poses. Koons has continued to mine popular culture in series such as Celebration (1995-1998), Easyfun (1999-2000), and Easyfun/Ethereal (2000-2002), which include many of his best-known motifs, such as the balloon dog. Recently, Koons has also begun to explore the connections between contemporary art and antiquities in the Gazing Ball series (2012-present).

Koons has been the subject of many solo exhibitions and retrospectives, including the 2014-2015 exhibition “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and shown at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Guggenheim Bilbao. Koons’s work can be found in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum Ludwig, Koln, among many others.

Jeff Koons lives and works in New York.

quote

“Even in making objects, as soon as you start to get the feeling that some form of craft is coming into place, you realize that everything is wrong. Because craft is really just a fetish. It is wasted energy. It's about the object, some space which has nothing to do with the human.”

- JEFF KOONS

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