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The First Retrospective of Jeff Koons in Europe

23 January 2015

When Jeff Koon's orange 'Balloon Dog' sculpture sold for $58,405,000 in 2013, it was the most expensive work sold at auction by a living artist. The Christie's sale cemented the artist's rounded, reflective stainless steel works as being some of the most iconic and popular pieces of contemporary art in the world. The first retrospective of Koon's work in Europe is therefore an exciting event in Paris' exhibition calendar and an honour for the Centre Pompidou to host. Around 100 pieces went on display on the 26th of November 2014, allowing residents and visitors to the city alike to explore the work of this controversial artist.

A Diverse Range of Work

Chronologically ordered from 1979 to present, the Pompidou's diverse display of Jeff Koon's career to date includes the 'Inflatable Flower and Bunny', which initially gained him recognition, the famous gilt decorated porcelain figures of Michael Jackson and Bubbles from 1988, and of course, a 'Balloon Dog'. His work has bridged mass culture and art, exploring advertising, consumption, representation and taste. He recreated historic busts and kitsch figurines in stainless steel in 1986, overriding any preconceptions about the original objects to result in a range of contemporary artworks with equal standing. His inspirations have varied from everyday American culture to the history of art, the latter both literally and by looking at modern interpretations. For 'Metallic Venus' in 2010-2012, he recreated an image of Venus not directly from a Roman statue but from a novelty ornament, thus making a copy of a copy into a glistening blue piece of modern art. It's his interest in appealing to the public and play with metamorphosis in form and understanding that has perhaps attracted so many admirers, along with a fun sense of nostalgia, atleast at first glance.

Celebration and Criticism

The collection of 35 years' worth of work had been on show in New York's Whitney Museum of American Art until October, which stated that he is '...widely regarded as one of the most important, influential, popular, and controversial artists of the post-war era'. Travelling over the Atlantic, the Pompidou have called him "l'artiste le plus radical de son époque", the most radical artist of his time. As well as admiration for iconic works, Koons is known for attracting criticism, not only from exploring themes that seemingly challenge the concept and hierarchy of art and the everyday, but also from the controversial 'Made in Heaven' series, which featured explicit imagery of the artist and his then wife, Ilona Staller. The artist has however stated that his ' is against criticism. It fights against the need for a critical function in art and seeks to abolish judgement, so that people can look at the world and accept it in its totality. It's a question of accepting it for what it is. If you do that, you do away with all forms of segregation, and the creation of hierarchies...'. Whether you're hoping to better understand his ambitions or to simply enjoy the creations, a wide range of media from 14 series is on show at the Centre Pompidou until the 27th of April 2015.



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