Controversial Koons

Jeff Koons, Antiquity 3, 2011 Antiquity. Oil on canvas 259.1 x 350.5 cm. © Jeff Koons

He is the artist everyone has an opinion about, and whether you love him or hate him there is certainly no escaping the controversial kitsch art superstar Jeff Koons at the moment. The 20th June 2012 marked the opening of the largest exhibition to ever be granted to the artist, “Jeff Koons. The Painter & The Sculptor” at Schirn Kunsthalle and the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt. Each of the spaces devoted itself to a different aspect (paintings and sculptures) of Koons’ lengthy and largely discussed and disputed career.

Upon arriving at the press conference on Tuesday to a rainy Frankfurt, a mad bustle of excitement and suspense filled the exhibition space where some forty-five paintings by Koons bore down on the guests and eager photographers. The vast paintings act as a timeline of Koons’ span as one of the world’s leading artists, showing his lifelong obsession with beauty and the banal. The expansive breadth of references, connotations and memories his paintings contain and conjure up (while using extreme flatness of canvas) was best exemplified by the fact that although this space is impressive in size and would be more than ample room for most other works, Koons’ paintings appeared somewhat clustered in this context with little to none breathing space between them. 

Within mere minutes of Koons discussing his work, it became clear that the man is not only a painter and sculptor but also a walking talking quote machine: Nearly every line he spoke would make a gleaming headline or a perfectly witty image caption. The über perfectionist in Koons is clearly not limited to just his work, but instead his entire Media persona. “Kitsch is a word of judgement. I don’t believe in judgement” Koons states. In what could be construed as an ironic statement coming from an artist whose entire art career has been judged and discussed in terms of “High” and “Low” time and again, he would rather see his work as an “exploration of what it means to be human”.

Before the curators could finish their last word, press were jumping from the seats and bolting for the shuttle bus in the direction of the Liebieghaus, where the sculptures are exhibited – and where things got especially interesting. This section of the exhibition is extraordinarily curated. Each placement of the sculptures within the house’s permanent collection makes sure to create reciprocal enrichment in the viewing of both the antique works, but mainly of the pop art pieces embedded within the Antiquity, Medieval, Renaissance and Rococo galleries.

The “Woman in Tub” placed in a terracotta altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia, the famous Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculpture sitting with the Egyptian death masks, or the unveiling of the new series “Antiquity” with the breathtaking “Metallic Venus” standing alone and proud in the red room, are exquisite examples of Koons’ work at its very best; provoking and yet strangely beautiful in its abhorrent ugliness.

“Jeff Koons. The Painter & The Sculptor” is a retrospective that continues to display the power of Koons’ work. It will shock the first timers, entertain the lovers, and annoy the haters. Whatever your opinion on the artist himself, the work or his methods of creation is, we defy you to leave this colossal show without being strongly moved by what you have just seen. 

“Jeff Koons: The Painter & The Sculptor”
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt & Liebieghaus
20th June – 23rd September 2012


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