born 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, USA
Jeff Koons studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute College of Art. In New York, he manned the membership desk of the Museum of Modern Art, displaying formidable salesmanship, and later worked as a Wall Street commodities broker while establishing himself as an artist. This background probably accounts for his incomparably nuanced take on contemporary cultural marketing and consumption. Today, around 100 assistants labour in Koons’ Manhattan studio to replicate his computer designs, producing the small-scale works while the larger works are outsourced to metal fabricators and foundries.
Koons’ early work was in the form of conceptual sculpture, and almost from the start, his work has come in thematic series or product lines. The absolute opposite of minimalism, Koons’ fusion of Woolworths and Versailles advances Andy Warhol’s pop-art treatment of throwaway subjects onto another level altogether. From fluorescent-lit, spotless vacuum cleaners hermetically sealed in plexiglas cases, to lovable topiary puppies; from basketballs floating on chemically treated water in glass tanks, to ten-feet-tall gleaming sculptures based on balloons twisted into the shape of a toy dog; from glazed-ceramic and painted-wood blowups of Michael Jackson with his chimp Bubbles, to photographs and figurines of himself and his then-wife, porn star and Italian MP Ilonna Staller, as a god and goddess of fervent love, Koons manages to disconcert and revitalise our seeing and thinking about art.
Koons is also known for his public sculptures, such as Split-Rocker and the monumental floral Puppy, shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney as a Kaldor project in 1995. In 2006, his enormous stainless steel Balloon Flower (Red) was unveiled in New York City. In 2007, his metal sculpture Hanging Heart sold for US$23.6 million – a record at the time for a living artist at auction.
Read more about Jeff Koons’ 1995 Kaldor project.
See also Jeff Koons website.