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Jeff Koons

American Painter, Illustrator, Sculptor

Jeff Koons Photo
Movements and Styles: Neo Pop Art, Neo-Geo

Born: January 21, 1955 - York, Pennsylvania

"The job of the artist is to make a gesture and really show people what their potential is. It's not about the object, and it's not about the image; it's about the viewer. That's where the art happens."

Summary of Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons derives inspiration from things you might find at a yard sale: inflatable plastic toys, vacuum cleaners, porcelain trinkets and other items not typically considered fine art. He is the epitome of Neo-Pop, a 1980s movement that looked to earlier Pop artists, particularly Warhol, for inspiration. His steel Balloon Dog sculptures, probably his best-known works, transpose an ephemeral childhood memory into an enduring form. His work looks cheap, but is expensive, an ingenious reversal of economic logic that forms the basis for his stunning commercial success. Rather than offending the art snob, Koons has challenged top collectors to revise their notions of what fine art looks like. This is a brilliant marketing strategy. His work brings the highest prices of any living artist on the auction market. Evidence of a turning point in art history, Koons is a new kind of genius in art. A significant departure from the modernist ideal of the misunderstood visionary, Koons is the anti-modernist, a shrewd, self-proclaimed crowd-pleaser, and avid promoter of his own work.

Key Ideas

With greater showmanship, and on a grander scale, than any artist before him, Koons presents us with the clash between high art and popular culture.
Koons is essentially a late-20th-century incarnation of Marcel Duchamp. Like the French Conceptual artist who thought America's bridges and plumbing her finest artworks, Koons strips industrially-made objects of their practical purpose and re-presents them as art.
His sculptures are not merely conceptual, but aesthetic, in ways that challenge us, especially those of us accustomed to fine art. Kitsch and high culture, religion and eroticism, weightlessness and mass are among the apparent opposites that mix and mingle in his work.
Koons was among the first American artists to cast himself as a populist. In the rising economy of the 1980s, his message resonated with audiences sick of art world elitism. His outspoken distaste for abstract art, already fading from fashion, vaulted him into the limelight.
Somewhat paradoxically, his embrace of bad taste has won over the most discerning and ostensibly elitist audiences. By collecting Koons, collectors and museums show that they can take a joke.
Sculpture <i>Tulips</i> by Jeff Koons. Photo taken at the Nord-LB office building in Hanover, Germany (2011).

Saying "It's a balloon that a clown would maybe twist for you at a birthday party," Koons began his innovative Inflatables series in 1978. Casting rabbits and flowers in metal, he said, "they're like us.. You take a breath and you inhale, it's an optimism," as he pioneered the Neo-Geo and the Neo-Pop art movements.

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