I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...
The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...
The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...
Exhibition view: Jeff Koons: At The Ashmolean, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (7 February–9 June 2019). Courtesy of Ashmolean. Photo: David Fisher.
Jeff Koons is back. The American artist and art commerce kingpin has just opened his latest show at Oxford's Ashmolean, the world's oldest public museum. Seventeen significant works – 14 of which make their first appearance on UK soil – span the artist's career and radically distinctive oeuvre including Equilibrium, Antiquity and Gazing Ball in a show curated by Koons himself and his long-term friend and collaborator, Sir Norman Rosenthal.
Jeff Koons is an American contemporary artist whose works often reference popular culture and are characterised by an interest in the banal and readymade.
Koons received his BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York, his current city of residence. During the late 1970s, Koons worked as a student assistant for the artist Ed Paschke, whom is cited along with Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Duchamp as early influencers upon the artist’s practice. In the 1980s, Koons worked as a commodities broker, later explaining this move as a way to finance his artistic career before returning to being a full-time artist.
During the 1980s, Koons rose to prominence as part of a group of artists who came to be associated with the term Neo-Geo. The group is often discussed in the context of the art world’s critique of a media-saturated and consumer-influenced culture and the commodification of the art object. Other artists included Ashley Bickerton and Peter Halley.
Working predominantly in series, Koons creates works in a number of mediums ranging from photography to sculpture, often using readymade objects or objects that appear to be readymade. Early work included The New (1979–1987), a series of branded and mounted vacuum cleaners. When they were first exhibited in the window of the New Museum in New York in 1980, they were arranged in cabinets and displayed as if in a showroom. The works were oriented around a central red fluorescent lightbox, which had the words ‘The New’ written on it, as if referencing a new brand. Subsequent series included Easyfun Ethereal (2001), which included multi-media collages of images of bikinis, lips, eyes, cars, food and landscapes. Koons drew from the visual language of advertising to make the familiar yet unrelated images communicate to his audience.
His sculpture Acrobat (2003–2009) exemplifies Koon’s often deceptive riff on the concept of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade. The work is a large lobster, vertically balanced upside down on its claws between an upturned bin and a chair. It immediately appears to be an inflatable plastic pool toy, due to the realistic paint detail and naturalistic crinkling around its edges. The work is in fact made from stainless steel and is exceptionally heavy.
The artist is perhaps best known for his large-scale public sculptures. An example is Puppy (1992), a giant 13-metre sculpture created using live flowers and depicting a West Highland Terrier. The work references the topiary garden style that dates back to Roman times, when bushes were trimmed to resemble statues of animals. In 1995, the work was erected at Darling Harbour, Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and in 1997, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation purchased the work and relocated it to the exterior of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. At the inauguration of the Bilbao that same year, Spanish police intercepted a terrorist plan to blow up the Puppy sculpture. The men, disguised as gardeners, planned to install detonating flowerpots into the work.
Works such as Puppy are highly technical, taking several months to create. In addition to flowers grown offsite, a 3D computer model was used to construct the stainless steel framework of the work. Hand-moulded wire mesh lined with soil was then placed on the frame, along with an internal irrigation system. The irrigation system ensures the work is kept blossoming and allows it to continue growing. Its creation is due both in part to Koons’ conceptual premise and the manpower of his studio assistants. Koons currently employs 148 people in his studio to assist with his projects. Although Koons began by making his own sculptures and paintings, he now employs people so that he is not limited by the time taken to make his works. This time gives him the freedom to edit his works, increase his productivity and control the process of each work.
The first image to greet the visitor at the entrance to this exhibition, arranged across three galleries in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, is a life-sized photo portrait of Jeff Koons in his New York studio. Standing on a plinth, he gazes out at the viewer, one hand holding a deep-blue glass sphere that, like the mirror in the 'Arnolfini Portrait',...
David Rabinowitch was born in Toronto, but since 1972 he has been living in New York, where his artistic output, mostly sculpture and works on paper, has been the source of admiration for those who appreciate craft and the transmission of cultural knowledge in art.His Périgord Construction of Vision Drawings, the series currently on show at the...
Portraiture is an enduring art form, thanks to the narcissistic tendencies of the human race.
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