Thursday, 19 May 2016

Jeff Koons - Newport Street Gallery

Jeff Koons, Balloon Swan
Jeff Koons: Now is at Newport Street Gallery until 16 October 2016.
 I like Jeff Koons. I shouldn’t really, but I do. Some of his work is horrible – Titi, for example (below); this is so kitsch that it makes you wonder what civilization has come to. Yet, even in its grotesqueness it exerts a sort of guilty, ironic pleasure.
On the other hand, I have seen a few of his ‘balloon’ pieces –  Dog, Flower – and they are… just fabulous, beautiful, joyous. They are ridiculous, to be sure, but wonderful in their immaculate, mirror-polished stainless steel, other-worldly, strangeness. I am looking forward to seeing Balloon Swan in this show.
I first saw Koons' work back in 1987 in Saatchi’s first (and best) gallery at Boundary Road in North London; even then I was both repelled and delighted. Art student Damien Hirst saw that exhibition too and was deeply impressed (see interview on Newsnight).  Today, Hirst, in addition to being a star artist in his own right not only has his own collection of Koons’ work, but his own gallery as well: Newport Street Gallery. (It looks to me as if some of the works from Saatchi’s collection have found their way into Hirst’s.) And what a terrific gallery it is, too. The first exhibition was the utterly delightful surprise of John Hoyland (see blog entry, below). Jeff Koons: Now is the second show and a more predictable subject than Hoyland, but no less welcome for that.
The exhibition amounts to a selected survey of Koons’ career from early ‘inflatables’ of 1979 through the wonderful vacuum cleaner pieces (The New) of the early 1980s, the basketball ‘Equilibium’ tanks, a model train whiskey decanter from the 'Luxury & Degradation' series (great title!), a selection of the exuberantly pornographic ‘Made in Heaven’ pictures of Koons and his former wife La Cicciolina, exploring their sexual love. (In fact Koons has explained that pornography “has no interest for me. I’m interested in love… I’m interested in the spiritual… I had to go to the depths of my own sexuality, my own morality, to be able to remove guilt and shame from myself. All of this has been removed for the viewer. So when the viewer sees it, they are in the Realm of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” (Muthesius, A. (1992) Jeff Koons, Taschen pp132/6) So, there you have it. He talks a lot of nonsense, but can be puppyishly plausible. (You can glimpse Exaltation (1991) from this series behind Bowl with Eggs (Pink), below.)
Read reviews/articles by Waldemar Januszczak, Fisun Güner, Mark Hudson and Jonathan Jones (he hated it: he says I am an idiot for looking at the vacuum cleaners, let alone liking them!); watch an interview (or love-in) with Koons and Hirst on BBC Newsnight (starts at 29 mins.); read an interview in the Evening Standard.
(Click on images to enlarge.)

Jeff, Koons, New Hoover Quik Broom, New Hoover Celebrity IV
Jeff Koons, Three Ball 50/50 Tank (detail)
Jeff Koons, Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Engine
Jeff Koons, Bowl with Eggs (Pink), (Exaltation in background)
Jeff Koons, Titi
Jeff Koons, Elephant
Jeff Koons, Play-Doh

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