Brighton Museum & Art Gallery hosts an exhibition of work by Jeff Koons, widely regarded as one of the world’s most important living artists.
Jeff Koons’s provocative and playful work reflects upon the power of consumer industries and the aesthetics and culture of taste. Extending practices of the historical avant-garde and Pop Art, Koons’s works question distinctions between mass culture and high art, pornography and the classical nude, sentimental affections and sublime feeling.
The exhibition will resonate wonderfully with Brighton, given the city’s reputation for extravagance and transgression epitomised by George IV’s fantastical residence, the Royal Pavilion – a building that is physically and emotionally in the centre of Brighton. Brighton as a media-saturated city with a deservedly ‘cheeky’ reputation will provide a new and apt context for Koons’s playful challenge of good and bad taste, and high and low culture.
The works on display are taken from ARTIST ROOMS, an inspirational collection of modern and contemporary art acquired for the nation by Tate and The National Galleries of Scotland through the generosity of Anthony d'Offay with additional support from funders, including the Art Fund. The ARTIST ROOMS tour programme, now in its fifth year, is showing at 16 museums and galleries across the UK in 2013. The tour is made possible thanks to the new support of Arts Council England and the continued support of the Art Fund.
On show will be works from important series in Koons’s oeuvre such as The New (1980-1987), Equilibrium (1983-1993), Banality (1988), Made in Heaven (1989-1991), Easyfun (1999-2000) and Popeye (2002). Early pieces on show - which incorporate everyday items like vacuum cleaners and basketballs - include New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon Displaced Doubledecker (1981-7) and Encased Four Rows (1983 93). These pieces will be displayed alongside Koons’s later skilfully crafted objects such as the wood-carved Winter Bears (1988), an enlarged replica of a typical gift shop item, and the marble sculpture Bourgeois Bust - Jeff and Ilona (1991), a representation of Koons and his former wife (the porn star and Italian politician Ilona Staller) locked in a passionate embrace.
Koons has always used his art to position himself self-consciously as an active participant in and manipulator of the art market and celebrity culture. These self-reflexive moves are evident in Koons’s Art Magazine Ads (Art in America), (1988-9) used to publicise the exhibition of his Banality series in 1988. The ads pre-empt potential criticism, revealing Koons as a king of the art world, complete with fawning pin-up girls, or juxtaposed with a sow and a piglet.
Koons also invites viewers to consider themselves as artworks. Easyfun (1999), a series of large animal-shaped coloured mirrors, reflect and frame viewers and the surrounding artworks in a playful fun-house style. The innocent glee in Easyfun has slightly more menacing expression in Koons’s Caterpillar (with chains) (2002), an enormous aluminium replica of an inflatable toy hanging from red steel chains.
Find out more about ARTIST ROOMS On Tour.
Published 19th April 2013
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