Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Moscow, Red October Chocolate Factory (Gagosian Gallery), For What You Are About to Receive, September – October 2008, p. 29, illustrated in color, pp. 214 and 219, illustrated in color (installation shots)
Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, Jeff Koons: Celebration, October 2008 – February 2009, p. 81, illustrated in color, p. 50, illustrated in color (detail) and endpapers, illustrated in color (details)
Jeff Koons' Baroque Egg with Bow (Turquoise/Magenta), 1994 - 2008 is a sculpture that indulges and excites the senses - one is treated to undulating waves of color, sensuous surfaces, and luxurious excess embodied in the most everyday of subjects. Monumental in scale and joyously effusive in spirit, the handling and precision of the sculpture is astonishing. Whether drawn, painted, sculpted in porcelain or glass, carved in wood, encased in Plexiglas, or cast in bronze or stainless steel, Jeff Koons' work has consistently and impossibly surpassed accepted codes of conduct and execution as set by the traditions of art history. His first series, called "The New" consisted of works that liberated the metaphoric value of mass-produced objects by 're-framing' them and displaying them out of context. The concept of the 'ready-made' transformed into 'high art' is the rich creative vein that runs throughout his entire career, finding its most perfect execution in the Celebration series, with the present work as one of the centerpieces. The series focuses on toys, presents, and other small childhood objects, all rendered with spectacular attention to detail and phenomenal realism. The Celebration series is comprised of an ambitious body of sixteen paintings and over twenty stainless steel sculptures. The series began in 1994 and, over the course of many years, Koons employed 70 assistants in a Warholian "factory" to execute the high degree of exacting perfection that was necessary for the fabrication of works in this series.
Koons is deeply interested in the collision between high and low art. The present work is an excellent example of the artist choosing an everyday, banal object and exalting it through an obsession with craft. Modeled after a chocolate Easter egg, it is ironic to think that the perfectly crafted "wrapping" of the egg, enticing and shimmering, would actually be detritus once the chocolate treat is consumed. The wrapping and object are here memorialized in Baroque detail in this dramatic sculpture whose scale and three-dimensionality is overwhelming to the viewer. The work truly becomes a kaleidoscopic monument to the possibilities of materials. Koons' precision and pristine surface recall the pursuit for the perfect surface one finds in the Pop Art idiom of Roy Lichtenstein. In essence, Baroque Egg with Bow (Turquoise / Magenta), and the other sculptures and paintings from this series, fuse together memories of childhood with Koons' own exacting attention to detail: it is as if his desire is to go back, as clearly and concretely as possible, to more innocent times. As Mario Codognato notes, "In this highly ambitious and extraordinary series...Jeff Koons isolates and reproduces details and criteria from [the context of 'celebration'], reinserting the mnemonic and nostalgic suggestions of still lives into an artistic concept" (Mario Codognato in Exh. Cat., Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Jeff Koons, 2003, p. 86).
The visual complexity of the bow and foil wrapping of the egg, and curiously, its intellectual reward, lie in the extraordinary detail lavished over every nuance of the loops and crinkles, as glints of light reflect and play across the complex surface. The egg is a common subject in Koons' Celebration series both in sculpture and painting, as in Cracked Egg, an oil painting from 1995–1999. The everyday is transformed into something of a fetish. Koons' seductive rendering creates not only aesthetic attraction for the viewer but also a sexual attraction achieved through the incredible scale and surface of the work. As much as we are seduced by the concrete image presented to us, we are equally enamored with the almost psychedelic colors that are the very building blocks of this monumental sculpture. The present work entices the viewer to tear off the wrapping and crumple it in their hands in order to reveal the hidden treasure inside. As with many of his works, Koons creates a work of art that appeals to multiple senses, as astounding colors delight our vision and the tactile rendering of the blue foil and pink bow begs to be touched. If one fully allows themselves to be drawn into the work, it also conjures up audible and tactile memories from childhood celebrations of Easter holidays.
Koons launched into the Celebration works from his Banality series, a more aloof, dark, and ironic form of postmodern expression. The Celebration series on the whole is less intensely intellectual, and more emotive and nostalgic. As such, Koons' conceptual thrust returns to a more traditional means of sculptural expression and execution, elevated by its compelling and utterly absorbing finish. This color-saturated object, plucked from the ephemera of experience and memory, is amplified in the most powerful and unabashed fashion. In the process, this segment of joyous and innocent life glimpsed through Koons' searching eye and intellect becomes almost ominous in its hyper-realistic and hyperbolic presentation. No one fragment of the composition is privileged over another; the execution remains as focused as possible, and the result is mesmerizing. Koons considers this attention to the surface as part of his commitment to the viewer, "When I make an artwork, I try to use craft as a way, hopefully, to give the viewer a sense of trust. I never want anyone to look at a painting, or to look at a sculpture, and to lose trust in it somewhere." (Jeff Koons in David Sylvester, "Jeff Koons Interviewed", Exh. Cat., Berlin, Deutsche Guggenheim, Easyfun-Ethereal, Berlin, 2000, p. 23-24). Baroque Egg with Bow (Turquoise / Magenta) is a seminal work from Koons' oeuvre which fulfills this statement and never loses the viewers' trust.
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