Some time ago we talked about Damien Hirst, scandalous and commercially successful artist from Great Britain who gained recognition for provocative topics and being one of the most expensive contemporary authors. Well, he is not the only one with such reputation. Meet Jeff Koons, American neo-pop artist focusing primarily on the mass culture symbols, everyday objects and kitsch.
Pennsylvania-born artist now lives and works in New York, where he owns a studio that resembles Andy Warhol’s Factory. Koons is known to be assisted in the creation of most of his works; moreover, now the artists just designs the artworks, and his crew executes the final product. This fact (just as many other controversial aspects of his oeuvre) raised many questions on the originality and contribution of his art.
But let’s start from the beginning. Koons has always been surrounded by scandals and buzz. Actually, his entire artistic path is based on evoking questions, criticism and backlash. And we are talking not only art-wise. He challenges society’s modern aesthetic, beliefs and symbolic hierarchy. He introduced kitsch to the high art circles (we can see resemblance with Andy Warhol once again), including everyday objects, pornography, cinematic characters into it.
It seems like Koons meant to play with the audience’s perception of these things and themselves, rather than parodying or ironically mocking them. The artist himself also contributed to the concept of no hidden meaning or concept behind his works, insisting on the idea that his art is what it seems at the first glance.
Jeff Koons is hard to categorize in terms of the techniques and fields of interest. Largely because he works in almost every possible art trend. Sculptures, paintings, photography, installations, digital art, design – and the list goes on. Some of his most famous works include such characters and personas as Popeye, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Hulk, Cicciolina (Ilona Staller, a Hungarian-Italian porn star whom he married in 1991 and engaged in explicit Made in Heaven series, which depicted the intimate moments between spouses framed in a Baroque and Rococo style).
Concerning his commercial success, numbers speak for themselves. In 2008, 3.3 meter sculpture Balloon Flower (Magenta) was sold at Christie’s London for incredible US$25.7 million, making Jeff Koons into one of the highest-selling contemporary artists. Such record sums paid for his works aroused question concerning the team work proceeded upon them at his studio. But as we said, main purpose and essence of Jeff Koons’s oeuvre is to raise questions and doubt the current ways of art and society, of the environment we and his artworks live in. So regardless of the way we feel about his art, it surely fulfilling author’s designation.