Jeff Koons

Born in York, Pennsylvania, on January 21, 1955, artist Jeff Koons has become famous by using everyday objects in special installations that touched on consumerism and the human experience. Jeff Koons is considered as one of the most influential, popular but also controversial artists of the postwar era. During the whole of his career, he has explored new approaches to the readymade, tested the boundaries between advanced art and mass culture, challenged the limits of industrial fabrication, and transformed the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity and the global market.

Koons’ first show was staged in 1980, and he came up onto the art scene with a style that blended several existing styles—pop, conceptual, craft, appropriation—to develop his own unique trait and genre of doing art. Some of his art has consisted of overtly sexual themes while others have been seen as a form of neo-kitsch, such as his balloon dogs. (In 1988, he released the famous – but once again controversial and in somehow disturbing – sculpture of Michael Jackson. The dead white of Jackson’s skin and his glamorous pose with Bubbles in matching clothing invite a chilling range of questions about celebrity and image making.)

As part of Jeff Koons’s Celebration, an ongoing series of paintings and sculptures that memorialise the rituals, icons, and images surrounding birthdays, holidays, and other party occasions, Balloon Dog (Blue) may be the most imposing work. Using the recognisable form of a balloon twisted into the shape of a dog, Koons has frozen a moment in time, exaggerating both scale and material. Balloon Dog (Blue) is literal and abstract. When standing close to it, one’s own distorted reflection bends around smooth pert curves. The work is a collection of shapes, each segment alone does not look like part of a dog’s anatomy — in fact Koons often references human sexual anatomy — but taken as a whole Balloon Dog (Blue) is an aloof sentinel cloaked in nostalgia. Another iconic piece of Koons’s creations is the Eastern bunny novelty which sculpture’s mirror-like surfaces have the bizarre effect of including the viewer in their cool reflections.

Koons’ exhibits have always obtained inspired responses, a trait that perhaps itself is a marker in his importance as an artist, and since his first show in 1980 his works have been extensively shown worldwide. In 2014, the Whitney, the museum that gave Koons a significant blow of artistic inspiration as a student, was the first to held a retrospective of his body of work. He has also done solo shows at the château de Versailles in France (2008–09), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the Helsinki City Art Museum (2005), the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2004) and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (2003). Along with high-profile exhibits, Koons’ career has been notable for the wide array of prestigious awards he has received, which span the entire course of his career. Notable among them are the State Department’s Medal of Arts (awarded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012) and becoming an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London (2010), and an officer of the French Legion of Honor (2007). Koons was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 2005.