Tel-Aviv Museum of Art: Jeff Koons - Absolute Value
Updated: Mar 6
Tel Aviv Museum of Art is proud to present, for the first time in Israel, a solo exhibition of the American artist Jeff Koons. Regarded by many as the most important, influential, popular, and controversial living artist in the world, Koons is an exceptional and unique cultural phenomenon, whose influence resonates far beyond the confines of the art world.
WHEN: Opening March 10, 2020 - Extended till April 3, 2021
Jeff Koons (born 1955, York, Pennsylvania, USA) is the most prominant of the American Neo-Pop artists who arose in the 1980s exploring the meaning of art and spectacle in a media-saturated era, while accentuating the consumption culture that came to the fore at this time in his aesthetics. His work undermines the division between “good taste” and “bad taste,” mixing together "fine" and "crude", culture and kitsch. He continues the pathway set by 1960s Pop artists by making an earnest and avid investigation of the connection between art and the world of commodities. In his early career, Koons creations remained within the tradition started by Marcel Duchamp, presenting off the shelf objects, such as vacuum cleaners and basketballs, within illuminated vitrines – thereby aggrandizing commercial and domestic objects and calling attention to the allure of new products. Later on in his career, various colorful kitsch depictions replaced the industrial objects such as puppies, piglets, teddy-bears, flowers, or other amusing things made of porcelain or wood by craftsmen on Koons’ behalf. In the early 1990s, he documented his relationship with the actress Ilona Staller (Cicciolina), depicting domestic risqué scenes in a series of prints, photographs and sculptures of a commercial aspect, whose compositions were inspired by religious and classical paintings.
Koons further developed his practice of creating imagery from popular culture by inflating mundane objects to huge dimensions in marble, stainless steel, or other materials. Other extravagant sculptures featured celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga, cartoon characters such as Popeye and the Hulk or inflatable pool toys. These works were produced with an utmost perfectionism, rendering them highly coveted objects of desire for the general public and art collectors alike.
The exhibition “Jeff Koons: Absolute Value – A Selection of Works from the Mugrabi Collection” is curated by Doron Rabina, Chief Curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It will be on view at the Lilly & Yoel Moshe Elstein Multi-Purpose Gallery in the Herta and Paul Amir Building – the museum’s largest exhibition space, covering 850 square meters.
The exhibition is a second collaboration between the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Mugrabi Collection, some of whose works were exhibited in 2013 in the “Wanted’ exhibition (including works by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince, and others).
The exhibition presents a selection of large-scale works from different periods in Koons’s career, from the 1980s till today. The works have been chosen from the artist’s most renowned series, encompasing his diverse range of mediums and techniques. The iconic pieces to be exhibited include Bear and Policeman (1988) from the Banality series displayed at the Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Pompidou Center in Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao; Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice (Violet) (2013–17), from the famous Balloon works; Hulk (Rock) (2004–13), Dolphin Taz Trashcan (2007–11) from the Inflatable works, and more.
Absolute value is a mathematical concept, denoting size in numerical terms: the absolute value of a number is the distance between it and the zero point on the number axis. The use of this notion in the exhibition’s title raises the question of value as a fundamental notion in Koons’s art, and highlights the long controversy over the attribution of value (or lack thereof) to artistic objects (echoing the question of “Is it art?” asked with regard to Duchamp’s Fountain, which is a standard urinal). The concept also finds expression in Koons’s practice of merging together symbolic value and economic value, thereby creating an arena in which one cannot – and possibly shouldn’t – tell them apart. Not least, the title reflects a search for an imaginary distance (absolute value) within the span of art history, of which Koons’s art is both a part and deviation.
The “Jeff Koons phenomenon” precedes Jeff Koons’s actual works and the physical encounter with them. There are few artists whose works are so etched into the collective cultural memory that an encounter with any single artwork of theirs is suffused with associations of all the others. The title therefore posits Koons himself – the artist and the phenomenon – as an axiom of contemporary art: a controversial artist, who is also a phenomenon that cannot be dismissed, a genius, and a symbol of an era.
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