Koons is considered one of the world's greatest living
artists. His work "Balloon Dog (Orange)" sold for a
record-setting $58.4 million last year, the highest price for a
"Jeff Koons: A Retrospective," which opens on Friday and runs
through Oct. 19, is his first large-scale New York museum
exhibition and the first time a single artist has taken over
nearly the entire Whitney Museum.
But long before Koons awed, inspired and shocked the art world
with his inflatable flowers, nude images and monumental
sculptures, he saw an exhibition at the Whitney in 1974 by
American artist Jim Nutt that had a huge impact on him.
"I ended up moving to Chicago and studying art, going to school
at the Art Institute of Chicago from seeing that exhibition,"
Koons, 59, said at a preview of the retrospective.
It is his wish that his works will have a similar influence on
those who see it.
"I hope that this exhibition can have a dialogue with the art
world, with young artists and help show the opportunities and
the freedom that young artists have today to follow their own
interests," he added.
With 150 works spanning more than three decades, the Whitney
retrospective chronicles Koons' career, showcasing the works
that made him one of the most popular, influential and
controversial postwar artists.
The works range from wall-mounted vacuum cleaners with
fluorescent lights from his first 1980 solo exhibition, to
basketballs suspended in tanks, a stainless steel train filled
with bourbon, and the 1988 porcelain sculpture "Michael Jackson
and Bubbles," of the pop singer and his pet chimpanzee.
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In his "Made in Heaven" series of huge works that shocked viewers in
1990 in Venice, Koons is shown nude with his then-future and now
ex-wife, Ilona Staller.
"One of the things I like to think that Jeff has done is to break
not just one boundary but so many," Scott Rothkopf, the associate
director of programs who curated the retrospective, told Reuters.
Although Koons has been a major force in the art world for decades,
he has never had a major retrospective in his hometown, so the
timing felt right for the New York show.
"I think in a way his work just gains in its significance and its
importance and its sense of urgency," said Rothkopf.
Koons has been called the "king of kitsch" because of his use of
everyday objects and pop art imagery, but Rothkopf noted that Andy
Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were also criticized for going down that
"I think Jeff's relationship to kitsch and popular culture is one of
the most complicated and interested aspects of his work," he added.
After its New York run, the retrospective will move to France and
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and
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