The Whitney Museum of Art is moving downtown next spring, leaving its home of nearly 50 years on Madison Avenue. The Whitney closed out its residence with a retrospective of Jeff Koons. I'm not a fan but I headed over to see this blockbuster, nearly 150 pieces of Koons' work since the late 1970s. I still don't care for much of it but it was fun to look at such a huge array of work. I'll post a few photos from each gallery/series and leave the commentary to myself -- unless I think a few words of clarification are in order.
First gallery, The "Pre-New" and "The New" --
Yes, these are vacuum cleaners.
Next, to the gallery full of "Inflatables."
Moving on, "Equilibrium" --
This basketball is not encased in lucite or acrylic -- it is floating in the middle of the tank.
Also included in "Equilibrium," some bronze sculptures.
Next, "Luxury and Degradation" --
This is the "Jim Beam JB Turner Train." It's made of stainless steel and the cars are filled with bourbon. Apparently.
Let's move on to "Made In Heaven." This is a lithograph of Koons and his then-wife, Italian porn star Cicciolina.
They have since divorced and had a nasty custody battle over their son.
So much for Heaven.
Much of this gallery was rather explicit and NSFW but this self-portrait sculpture was rather nice:
Moving from heaven to "Banality," which was the room that housed the infamous "Michael Jackson and Bubbles" sculpture at the top of this post. This was probably my least favorite series.
This bear was about 7 feet tall, just to give you a sense of scale.
People took turns standing up behind this sculpture to have their photo taken as they lined themselves up with the missing head. I did not.
This sculpture above, "String of Puppies," resulted in a lawsuit for Koons, filed by professional photographer Art Rogers who took this photo:
Koons had 4 identical versions of the sculpture produced and sold 3 of them for a total of $367,000.
According to Wikipedia: "Koons found the picture on a postcard and wanted to make a sculpture based on the photograph for an art show on the theme of banality of everyday items. After removing the copyright label from the postcard, he gave it to his assistants with instructions on how to model the sculpture. He asked that as much detail be copied as possible, through the puppies were to be made blue, their noses exaggerated, and flowers to be added to the hair of the man and woman…Rogers was awarded a large monetary settlement from Koons and Koons was also required to ship the fourth sculpture, remaining in the collection of Koons, to Rogers in Germany."
Let's move on to "Statuary." A roomful of stainless steel sculptures. Here's "Rabbit" --
And another series in another gallery, similarly, "Popeye" --
Note, this is not a plastic inflatable. It's a polychromed aluminum sculpture - METAL - which has been carefully molded and painted to simulate a soft inflatable beach toy. Impressive.
Here's a shot next to the guard to give you a sense of scale. Wonder what goes through the mind of a security guard who stands next to a metal lobster for hours on end?
Likewise with these two sculptures - the "inflatables" are made of polychromed aluminum.
Moving on to the "Hulk" series --
Ok, that's enough of that.
On to "EasyFun-Ethereal". These paintings were perplexing. Here's a sample:
At first glance, this appears to be a collage of magazine clippings that has been enlarged and printed on paper. But it is described as "oil on canvas." WTF?
Koons has an army of studio assistants who help him create much of his work. I'm guessing that several assistants spent months painstakingly transferring the computer-generated collage onto the canvas in oil paint.
Finally, "Celebration" -- so of course we should start with "Cake."
Ok, so this is oil on canvas and it does look like that up close -- although almost reminiscent of a paint-by-number painting with all of the carefully delineated spaces of paint:
One of the Hanging Hearts (there are 4 others).
And here is the massive "Moon" (again, there are 4 others) which is about 10 feet in diameter.
This is "Cat On A Clothesline." Obviously. and is made out of plastic.
Another oil on canvas - Boy With Pony - which is about 9 feet by 12 feet:
One of the infamous "Balloon Dog" sculptures (again, 4 others exist):
And the pièce de résistance - "Playdoh" (one of a series of 5), cast of polychromed
aluminum but gives the appearance of that deliciously squishy clay:
Looks like playdoh. Is actually aluminum. That's impressive.
But is this your kind of art? Ok, even if it is -- is it art that you want to look at every day? I enjoyed this walk through but if I have the luxury of hanging a piece of art on my wall, something that I would look at every day, it's not my cup of tea……..is it yours?