March HL - page 10

HENLEY
life
| MARCH 2019
10
WHAT’S ON HIGHLIGHTS
A major exhibition of the work of Jeff
Koons (b. 1955) is running at the
Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is curated
by Koons himself, together with guest
curator Sir Norman Rosenthal.
The show will feature 17 important works, 14
of which have never been exhibited in the UK
before. They span the artist’s entire career and
his most well-known series including
Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity
and
his recent
Gazing Ball
sculptures and
paintings.
Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean,
says: 'In showing Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean,
the world’s oldest public museum where the
collections range from prehistory to the
present, this exhibition will provoke a
conversation between his work and the
history of art and ideas with which his work
engages. I am sure it will also provoke
conversations among those who see it.’
Jeff Koons is described by superlatives. Since
he burst onto the contemporary art scene in
the 1980s he has been described as the most
famous, important, subversive, controversial
and expensive artist in the world.
From his earliest works Koons has explored
the ‘readymade’ and appropriated image
using unadulterated found objects, and
creating painstaking replicas of ancient
sculptures and old master paintings which
almost defy belief in their craftsmanship and
precision.
Throughout his career he has pushed at the
boundaries of contemporary art practice,
stretching the limits of what is possible.
Jeff Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania in
1955 and he now lives and works from New
York. He studied at the Maryland Institute
College of Art in Baltimore and the School of
the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a
BFA from the Maryland Institute College of
Art in 1976.
He is widely known for his iconic sculptures
Rabbit
and
Balloon Dog
as well as the
monumental floral sculpture
Puppy
(1992),
shown at Rockefeller Center and
permanently installed at the Guggenheim,
Bilbao.
The Ashmolean exhibition will include
important works from the 1980s with which
Koons made his name through the novel use
of the readymade and the appropriation of
popular imagery.
Among the highlights will be the
spectacular
Balloon Venus (
Magenta) (2008–
12). While evoking the tiny
Ice Age ‘Venus of
Willendorf’,
one of the world’s oldest works of
art,
Balloon Venus (Magenta)
is made with
Koons’s signature motifs: monumental scale;
the inflated balloon with its intimations of
transience and mortality and the flawless
mirror-polished surface which positions the
viewer in the work.
In his
Antiquity
paintings (2009 onwards)
Koons creates thrilling, layered collages.
Photo-realist reproductions of classical
sculptures (of Venus, Pan and Priapus) are set
against broken collages of other artworks or
dazzling abstract backgrounds, overlaid with
graffiti-like marks.
In more recent works, Koons has explored
what he calls his ‘cultural DNA’, using
sculptures and paintings from world-famous
collections, which have personal meaning for
him.
Shown in the UK for the first time will be
seven works from the series including
Gazing
Ball (Belvedere Torso)
(2013),
Gazing Ball
(Gericault Raft of the Medusa)
(2014–15), and
Gazing Ball (Titian Diana and Actaeon)
(2014–
15).
Koons has received numerous awards and
honours in recognition of his cultural
achievements. He has also been a board
member of The International Centre for
Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) since
2002, and co-founded the Koons Family
International Law and Policy Institute with
ICMEC for the purpose of combating global
issues of child abduction and exploitation
and to protect the world’s children.
Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean runs until
June 9. Visit
for more
information.
Photos: Top left: Seated ballerina
Middle top: Balloons Venus (Magenta)
Middle bottom: Antiquity
Below: Gazing Ball (Belevdere Torso)
Modern
juxtaposition
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