Jeff Koons Appropriates Great Masters While We Straighten Our Ties

Jeff Koons

A brand new series of paintings by the Post Pop artist Jeff Koons entitled Gazing Ball is currently on show in New York. In this series, Koons has appropriated images from artists of the past, such as Titian, El Greco, Courbet, and Manet, among others. The works deal with the power of artistic gesture. Each work has a blue glass gazing ball that sits on a painted aluminum shelf attached to the front of the painting. The viewer and the painting are reflected in the gazing ball. This metaphysical occurrence connects the viewer to a family of cultural history in real time. Through the simple act of placing a gazing ball in front of the images, painting and sculpture are reunited for maximum sensory perception, as in ancient times. 

But what does it all mean? Koons has dealt in the past with reflected imagery in his sculpture and mirror balls. This is again another example of user engagement with the artwork. Like catching a glimpse of yourself in a shop window, this captures our vanity and challenges us to gaze at ourselves while looking at a well known work of art. Is this shallow? Maybe! 

Jeff Koons’s first solo show in 1980 has seen his work widely exhibited internationally. Major retrospectives have been presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1992); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1992); Aarhus Kunstmuseum (1993); Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1993); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1993); Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2004); and Helsinki City Art Museum (2005). “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2014 and traveled to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2014–15). 

Museum exhibitions include “Jeff Koons on the Roof,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2008); “Jeff Koons: Versailles,” Château de Versailles (2008–09); “Jeff Koons: Celebration,” Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2008–09); “Jeff Koons: Popeye Series,” Serpentine Gallery, London (2009); “Jeff Koons,” Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel (2012); and “Jeff Koons: The Painter and the Sculptor,” Schirn Kunsthalle and Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt (2012). 

Koons’s artworks are currently on displayed at Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria, Florence, for the exhibition “Jeff Koons in Florence” (through December 28, 2015). Balloon Venus (Orange) is on view in the rotunda of the Natural History Museum Vienna (through March 13, 2016). 


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