Through his early use of everyday items such as vacuum cleaners and basketballs and later by creating oversized kitsch objects, Jeff Koons reflects upon the power of consumer industries and the aesthetics and culture of taste.
Koons has made use of the kind of references reminiscent of Pop Art in its use of popular imagery and in his means of production, with multiple assistants working with him in the studio. He demands total perfection from specialists in each chosen medium and his work is manufactured with extraordinary precision.
Drawing together a range of styles and spanning a broad chronology from early 1980s to the late 1990s, the works in ARTIST ROOMS highlight some of the artist’s most important series. In New Hoover Convertibles 1981-7 Koons preserves a banal, household object as a new commodity in perpetuity, making its function obsolete within a contained vitrine. The idea of protected perfection is at the heart of Encased – Four Rows 1983-93 from the artist’s famous series of basketball works, in which he sought to achieve constant equilibrium by suspending the balls in liquid. Winter Bears 1988 was first shown in Koons’s landmark exhibition Banality in 1988. The carved wooden figures derive from popular figurines, blown up to great proportions to create a sculpture that is at once familiar yet grotesque.
Koons’s fascination with kitsch and Baroque styles is also found in Mound of Flowers 1991 and the Bourgeois Bust 1991, a marble sculpture which depicts the artist and his wife, Ilona. This portrait bust is part of a larger body of work in which Koons and Ilona starred in their own erotic romance, documented through a series of sculpture and photographic works. The billboard Made in Heaven 1989 and the Art Magazine Ads 1988-9 use standard advertising methods and were made to publicise the project.
In the Studio: Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons is interviewed in his studio by TateShots in 2008. Fresh from exhibiting his work at the Palace of Versailles (the first time a contemporary artist has been invited to exhibit there), the boundary-breaking artist gave us a whistle-stop tour of his factory-like facility. Later that year, his work appeared at Tate Modern – first as part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection display, then in the exhibition Sold Out.