Jeff Koons

Born 1954.
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Works by Jeff Koons at Sotheby's

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Jeff Koons Biography

One of today’s most controversial working artists, Jeff Koons has had a decidedly unique career that runs counter to many of the art historical norms; despite his playful, often hyperbolic, artistic style, Koons has undertaken a number of shockingly conventional jobs in his life, such as working as a commodities broker on Wall Street, before fully devoting himself to art. Born in York, Pennsylvania, in 1955, Koons studied both at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduating with a BFA in 1977, he moved to New York City where he worked in membership services at the Museum of Modern Art. While at MoMA, he began working on his signature, often garish and banal, visual style. Koons utilized everything from inflatable toys to domestic appliances.

Koons also developed an artistic persona that was simultaneously blithe and over-the-top, a self-identity that has increasingly become associated with, and as part of, his work. The artist has repeatedly asserted that his work should be taken at face value and that there is no hidden meaning or interpretive content; this, in conjunction with his use of both kitsch and banal materials and motifs, has greatly contributed to the polarizing nature of his career within the art world. Koons frequently references pop culture in saccharine proportions, like in his bizarre works Michael Jackson and Bubbles or Pink Panther, both of which feature large-scale porcelain sculptures of celebrities and cartoonish companions. Most recently, Koons became the center of controversy after he offered the sculpture Bouquet of Tulips, to the city of Paris to memorialize the victims of a terrorist attack. After extreme backlash from all sides and a proposed installation in Tokyo Square instead, it now stands behind Paris’s Petit Palais after almost 3 years of debate.

Koons’s most distinguishable design is that of a balloon dog, which he has recreated in several iterations. These balloon dogs are often massive in scale, made of metal, and given a mirror-like finish. His Balloon Dog (Orange), one of five versions in various colors, holds one of the highest auction records for a living artist, selling for $58.4 million in 2013. Koons would go on to surpass his own record in 2019 when Rabbit, a stainless-steel bunny statue, sold for $91.1 million. Koons continues to live and work in New York City, where he has undertaken public commissions (such as Seated Ballerina, 2017, in Rockefeller Center), and his work is held in several collections, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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Artist Image: Credit: Richard Saker / Alamy Stock Photo