The Fondation Beyeler is presenting the first exhibition ever devoted by a Swiss museum to the American artist Jeff Koons (b. 1955). Koons, likely the best-known living artist, has for decades been causing a furore with the combination of popular and high culture that informs his art.
Our extensive presentation focuses on three central series of works – The New, Banality and Celebration – which represent crucial stages in Koons’s development and lead to the nucleus of his thinking and creative activity. The New comprises the ready-made-like cleaning appliances of his early period, symbols of newness and purity. Banality includes those traditionally crafted sculptures in porcelain and wood which have since become (post-)modern icons. Finally, in the Celebration series, on which Koons has been working for almost twenty years, appear high-gloss steel sculptures of unique material perfection, and large-format paintings in which the artist celebrates childhood in a veritably baroque way. Koons’s equally spectacular and subtle works are repeatedly concerned with themes such as innocence, beauty, sexuality and happiness. These reflect his conception of an art that is accessible to every viewer.
In the picture:
Balloon Dog (Red)
1994–2000, High chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating, 307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3 cm, European Private Collection © Jeff Koons
Air-filled objects have interested Koons from the beginning of his career, as is demonstrated by his use of vacuum cleaners in his early works. Numerous works in the Celebration series are inspired by the balloon figures modelled by street clowns. In Balloon Dog (Red), for example, Koons transforms a delicate, transient balloon dog into a huge archetypal dog made of durable stainless steel that Koons himself describes as a "Trojan horse". In its perfect execution, Balloon Dog (Red) is remarkable for the illusionism of its material – the sculpture looks soft and lightweight but is actually hard and weighs several tons.