Jeff Koons heads to university

Jeff Koons at Ashmolean
Jeff Koons photo David Fisher

Jeff Koons has opened a new exhibition at University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology the Ashmolean Museum. Curated by Koons himself together with guest curator Norman Rosenthal, the show features seventeen important works, fourteen 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 provokes 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 One Ball Total 241
Jeff Koons One Ball Total 241

The Ashmolean exhibition includes important works from the 1980s with which Koons made his name through the novel use of the readymade and the appropriation of popular imagery: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J 241 Series) (1985); Rabbit (1986); and Ushering in Banality (1988).

It also explores Koons’s more recent focus on the art of antiquity and the western art canon where layered images of ancient and modern art meet in Koons’s singular vision. Among the highlights are 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.

Curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal, says:

‘Jeff Koons’s work plays with our memories of childhood
and our “educated” cultural experiences as he blends high and low culture, inviting us to
challenge the distinction as we gaze at art and at ourselves. Putting his work in the Ashmolean –
the first museum in the very heart of academia, Oxford University – we can take his experiment
a step further. For those of us willing to share in his visions, Jeff Koons makes art a magical
transformation.’

Jeff Koons Rabbit photo Mark Westall
Jeff Koons Rabbit photo Mark Westall

JEFF KOONS at the Ashmolean to 9th June 2019 ashmolean.org

About The Artist
Jeff Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1955. 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. Koons lives and works in New York City. Since his first solo exhibition in 1980, Koons’s work has been shown in major galleries and institutions throughout the world. His work was the subject of a major exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective (27 June–19 October 2014), which travelled to the Centre Pompidou Paris (26 November 2014–27 April 2015) and the Guggenheim Bilbao (9 June–27 September 2015). Koons 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. Another floral sculpture, Split-Rocker (2000), previously installed at the Papal Palace in Avignon, Château de Versailles, and Fondation Beyeler in Basel, was most recently on view at Rockefeller Center in 2014. Jeff Koons has received numerous awards and honours in recognition of his cultural achievements. Notably, Koons received the Governor’s Awards for the Arts “Distinguished Arts Award” from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; the “Golden Plate Award” from the Academy of Achievement; President Jacques Chirac promoted Koons to Officier de la Légion d’Honneur; and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honoured Koons with the State Department’s Medal of the Arts for his outstanding commitment to the Art in Embassies Program and international cultural exchange. In 2017, Koons was made the first Artist-in-Residence at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and, also, made an Honorary Member of the University of Oxford’s Edgar Wind Society for Outstanding Contribution for Visual Culture. Koons has 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.

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'