Jeff Koons belongs to a long tradition of artists who work with readymade objects and images. He was one of the main figures in the group of Appropriation artists in New York during the late 1970s, developing a highly conceptual art.
At first, he presented displays of appropriated everyday objects – domestic appliances, basketballs, diving equipment, plastic bath toys – and objects based on popular aesthetic references, often referred to as ‘kitsch’. By executing his objects and images with a high level of material perfection and blowing them up in scale, he elevated the humble originals to the level of high art.
Behind each series and object lies a story that operates on many different levels, including the artist’s personal narratives. Taken all together, they constitute a body of work expressing fundamental themes related to man and society. Repeatedly in Koon’s work, the viewer is confronted by reflections on social aesthetics, self-acceptance, willpower, sexuality, immortality and death.
Koons is highlighting in his art the need to reject all ideas of blame and culpability, which consciously or unconsciously determine our actions, and to break away from social and cultural taboos and intellectual oppression.
“Just as Warhol proposed real news images and iconic pictures as art, Koons appropriates the aesthetics and social and cultural conventions of the masses in order to ‘penetrates mass consciousness’ and propose a populist notion of beauty as art. ‘Where I differ’, he says ‘is that Warhol believed you could penetrate the mass through distribution and I continue to believe you penetrate the mass with ideas’. One could add that Koons’s creative act is also – and not least – a political act, aimed at re-evaluating the cultural references of a class that for too long had been regarded as a cultural outsider.”
– Gunnar B. Kvaran, in his introduction to the exhibition’s mini catalogue