Lot 47
  • 47

JEFF KOONS | Yorkshire Terriers

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
855,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jeff Koons
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • signed, dated 91 and numbered 1/3 on the underside
  • polychromed wood


Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Germany
Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 7 November 2005, Lot 38 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above sale by Marc Jacobs


New York, Sonnabend Gallery; Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler; and Lausanne, Galerie Lehmann, Jeff Koons: Made in Heaven, November 1991 - December 1992 (edition no. unknown)
London, Hayward Gallery, Double Take: Collective Memory and Current Art, February - April 1992, p. 178, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown) 


Annie Spinkle, ‘Hard-Core Heaven: Unsafe Sex with Jeff Koons’, Arts Magazine, March 1992, p. 47, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Robert Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London 1992, pp. 124-25, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown) 
Angelika Muthesius, Ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, p. 148, illustrated in colour (with the artist and Ilona Staller at Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, 1991), p. 149, no. 31 and back cover, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Jutta Koethe, Spex, No. 2, February 1992, p. 74, illustrated 
Martin Gayford, ‘What’s Yours is Mine’, The Sunday Telegraph, London, 26 July 1992, p. 1, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Joe Joseph, ‘Penetrating Art Dekko’, The Times Review, London, 17 October 1992, pp. 1-2, illustrated (edition no. unknown)
Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 2009, p. 311, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Remember Everything - 40 Years Galerie Max Hetzler, November - December 2013, p. 118 (in installation at Made in Heaven, Venloer Strabe, Cologne, 1991)

Catalogue Note

Yorkshire Terriers embodies Jeff Koons's career-long examination of the complexities of objecthood, as well as his innate challenge to traditional concepts of taste, seduction, and consumerism in twentieth-century America. Undeniably adorable, and utterly kitsch, Yorkshire Terriers belongs to Koons's illustrious and highly controversial Made in Heaven series, executed between 1989 and 1991. The series infamously oscillates between the sexually explicit and the innocuous, and the playful, cartoonish puppies in the present work counterbalance the X-rated images of the artist and his then-wife Ilona Staller in erotic glass and marble sculptures such as Ilona on Top – Outdoors (Kama Sutra) and Bourgeois Bust – Jeff and Ilona. Juxtaposed against such unveiled eroticism, Yorkshire Terriers might operate as a succinct commentary on our naïve relationship to sex, as well as our compulsive relationship with the decorative objects that surround us. While seemingly childlike and chaste, the present work is, however, blatantly gendered through Koons’s placement of plush pink and blue bows atop the two puppies’ immaculately groomed heads. The undeniable contrast of male and female in the present work evokes the play of sex and gender in the Made in Heaven series as a whole, where flowers emulate female and male genitalia, and sculpted bodies collide in presumed ecstasy. Koons asserts, “There’s definitely a sexual base to the work, but it’s placed in an ideological way. There are male and female elements… there’s something very domestic at the core of it too, it’s about human life, about what it means to be human…” (Jeff Koons cited in: Exh. Cat., Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Jeff Koons, 2012, p. 16). From the late 1970’s Koons’s artistic output was profoundly object-based, and his early oeuvre was unmistakeably shaped by his observations while employed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: “Every day I would go to the collections… study all the Duchamp objects, and I would go to the library and pick up information on Man Ray, on Duchampian ideas and on the Avant-garde period. I wanted to contribute to the idea of the readymade” (Jeff Koons cited in: ibid., p. 13). Indeed, Koons’s earliest works re-appropriate and translate every-day objects into high art, inviting viewers to question the role of the quotidian, the decorative, and the mundane. Such articulations can be found in the series Pre-New and The New (1979-1983) in which Koons employed a vast array of domestic objects – from unused hoovers and toasters to telephones and coffee pots – in a decidedly post-modernist reflection upon how art is consumed within a theatre of twentieth-century mass production. Koons’s contribution to the readymade is further palpable in the present work, for here he has taken a junky miniature ornament and magnified it to grand proportions using skilled artisanal craftsmanship. Koons’s father was a furniture dealer and interior decorator, and thus the artist grew up with an enlightened understanding of middle-class America and its endowment of material goods and décor with their deepest and most personal aspirations. As such, the present work explores this innate sense of human yearning, and veritably represents the aestheticisation of contemporary desire.   

While the bold, cartoonish quality of Yorkshire Terriers evokes iconography of the American Pop movement of the 1960s, the work also offers an art historical reference in its allusions to Baroque sculpture and the highly decorative nature of Rococo art. Thus the present sculpture exhibits Koons’s natural predilection for the ornate extravagance of the past, intertwining art historical references with sex, humour, and wit. By re-writing the rules of appropriation, the neo-kitsch nature of Yorkshire Terriers provides a brilliant commentary on consumption, opulence, and material excess; Koons valiantly claims, “I learned to look at the external world and became really enthralled, excited by visual stimulation from everyday items, everyday situations, colours and objects” (Jeff Koons cited in: op. cit., p. 13).