Part 2 of the Jeff Koons retrospective. Read Part 1 here.
Sex and art go hand in hand so I guess it would not be a genuine artist retrospective without one room being devoted entirely to sex. The premise of Koons’s Made in Heaven series is based on the liberation from shame associated with sex. Koons chose to illustrate this theme by centering the series around himself as any self-respecting male artist would. For the sake of this blog, I’m keeping this post PG-13 and I snapped pictures of the least explicit artwork. Not to mention I felt awkward storing nude pictures of the exhibition’s artist on my phone. I’ve seen plenty of nude paintings, photos, and sculptures in museums before so I’m not bothered by artwork featuring nudity. However it seems a little too personal when it is the artist who has a starring naked role.
The above billboard announced a planned pornographic feature film starring Koons and the Italian porn star Ilona Staller who also somehow got elected to the Italian parliament. The film was never made, but that did not stop Koons and Staller from posing in a variety of sexual positions for this series, which produced an array of sculptures and billboards featuring the two of them clearly enjoying themselves. Koons then decided life should imitate art and ended up marrying Staller, though the union was short-lived. It was almost like he let himself be consumed by his artwork and he got a little too deep into character, which ended up backfiring in a major way. I did not particularly care for this part of the exhibition. I felt like I was intruding on something deeply personal, especially when I later learned that this series was in a way responsible for Koons losing his son to Staller, even though he was granted custody.
After indulging in Koons’s sexual history, we finally arrived at my favorite part of the exhibition, a room featuring large sculptures appropriately named Celebration. In these sculptures I recognized what had initially attracted me to the Puppy sculpture in front of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in Spain. These sculptures were joyful, lighthearted, and fun, “evoking birth, love, religious observances, and procreation.” I did not interpret the art that way but it definitely felt like a celebration of life with all the pops of bright color crammed into that room.
Can we first talk about this spectacular mountain of Play-Doh? This sculpture immediately conjured feelings of childhood nostalgia. As a kid, I would have played with Play-Doh all day long if allowed, spending hours mixing colors and mashing them together creating Play-Doh sculptures not unlike this one. It is the first time this sculpture is being shown to the public and has been in the works for twenty years. You read that right, it took twenty years for this sculpture to be made! Before anyone gets too excited, this not made out of real Play-Doh.
The material consists of 27 interconnected pieces of painted aluminum. I can tell that hours and hours of careful labor (and probably money!) were dedicated to this project. The level of detail is so intricate and so Play-Doh like, it is insane. It looks just like the real thing! Though my sister and I did roll our eyes at the “scatalogical associations” part in the description. It’s supposed to be a mountain of Play-Doh, not a mound of poop! Once you see it, you can’t unsee it but I refuse to let Koons ruin one of my favorite childhood memories.
Even close up it looks like Play-Doh! Poop doesn’t look like this.
The Celebration part of the exhibition featured several pieces of artwork with reflective surfaces. Maybe Koons has a fixation with mirrors? Whatever the case, my sister and I took full advantage of this and acted like the true millennials that we are by using the sculptures to take selfies. And I can’t believe I just let that word creep into this blog.
You can barely see us in this one so this is more an unintentional selfie. I loved this gigantic suspended purple heart.
Sister selfie! This sculpture is called Moon so I’m assuming it is meant to be the moon.
Part of Easyfun-Ethereal.
Part of Easyfun, this room contained a series of mirrors in the shape of animal head silhouettes.
One of Koon’s most well-known works is Balloon Dog. He has made a few others in different colors.
This sculpture of a kitten hanging in a sock may be a familiar sight to New Yorkers by now. It is one of the images currently being used in the advertisements for the exhibition which are all over the city.
This sculpture is sort of work-related which is why I snapped a picture. The name of this sculpture is Hulk Elvis, a combination of the most famous pop star of all time and the ill-tempered green superhero monster. I would be pissed off too if I had organ pipes sticking out of my back.
Overall I really enjoyed the exhibition and I’m glad I got to see it before the Whitney closes up shop and moves to its new location next year. Thank you to Sandrine for inviting me along! I still don’t understand all the controversial hype surrounding Jeff Koons but I think he is a decent artist and I discovered I really like his sculptures. If you happen to be visiting Manhattan in the near future or you already live near or in the city, I definitely recommend seeing this retrospective! The exhibition runs until October 19th. For information about the Whitney’s hours and tickets, click here. For more information about the Jeff Koons retrospective, click here.