Lot 18
  • 18

Jeff Koons

750,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jeff Koons
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • dated 91 and numbered 2/3 on the underside
  • polychromed wood
  • 44.5 by 52.1 by 43.2cm.
  • 17 1/2 by 20 1/2 by 17in.
  • Executed in 1991, this work is number 2 from an edition of 3 plus 1 artist's proof.


Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2004


Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Sonnabend Gallery and travelling, Jeff Koons: Made In Heaven, 1991-92, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Double Take: Collective Memory and Current Art, 1992, p. 178, illustration of another example in colour
Annie Spinkle, "Hard-Core Heaven: Unsafe Sex with Jeff Koons", Arts Magazine, March 1992, p. 47, illustration of another example in colour
J.C. Amman, Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, p. 39, no. 31, illustration of another example in colour
Robert Rosenblum, Eds., The Jeff Koons Handbook, London 1992, pp. 124-125, illustration of another example in colour
Angelika Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, pp. 148-49, no. 31, illustration of another example in colour and illustrated on the back cover
Martin Gayford, "What's Yours is Mine", The Sunday Telegraph, London, 26 July 1992, p. 1, illustration of another example
Joe Joseph, "Penetrating Art Dekko", The Times Review, London, 17 October 1992, pp. 1-2, illustration of another example
Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 2007, p. 319, illustration of another example in colour

Catalogue Note

Yorkshire Terriers, an integral element of Jeff Koons' most controversial and important series, Made in Heaven, makes a stand for the artist's riotous wit and timeliness. This wry wooden sculpture is among the brilliantly deadpan works that punctuate a series of larger-than-life photographs and models of the artist and his bride Ilona Staller (self-styled 'La Cicciolina'), playing out an explicit match made in heaven. When first shown in the Venice Biennale in 1990, the series provoked extraordinary furore, to the extent that Koons' Christmas show staged at the Sonnabend Gallery, New York, in 1991, was given an X-rating - surely the ultimate perk for an artist whose relish for probing the bounds of taste and morality has crowned him postmodernism's Lord of Misrule.

Koons glossed the series with butter-wouldn't-melt expostulations of the couple's innocent love, and amidst the photographs, Yorkshire Terriers is innocence writ large. Beguiling and provocative, the artist uses this piece to make puppy dog eyes at the viewer. The boy and girl doggies, complete with baby blue and pink bows, pose with paws splayed, an image of inane sweetness, and in marvellous juxtaposition with the knowing sexually explicit photographs of Koons and his wife, a media star in her own right. This absurd blown-up ornament takes its place on the Made in Heaven mantelpiece, and it is the twist that makes the series a landmark in postmodernism.

Whilst making a pivotal contribution to the ongoing debate as to how art is consumed, Made in Heaven strikes up conversations within the larger canon of art history. Along with glass and marble models in the Made in Heaven series, the smooth, spotless bodies in the cinematic photographs amount to a brilliantly witty reinvigoration of the superficial academic nude. In this respect, Koons' timing was crucial: on the heels of the first public showing of Courbet's Origin of the World, by the Brooklyn Museum in 1988, Made in Heaven made its strike on the limits of acceptability while the iron was red hot. The sugary, plastic stylisation in conjunction with the overtly artificial set-up, replete with studio lighting, Technicolor tints, false rocks and soft-focus backdrops of crashing waves and sunsets, makes for an audacious deliberation of the superficiality of sentiment.

The present piece pinpoints Koons' unique insight into the times - times fuelled by unlimited consumption, from Disney and Michael Jackson to soft porn and shopping malls. At the epicentre of his age, Koons was one of the first artists to employ an image consultant, and brought a radical new viewpoint into the art gallery, testing the artwork's position as a consumer item. 'My art and my life are totally one. I have everything at my disposal and I'm doing what I want to do. I have my platform, I have the attention. This is the time for Jeff Koons' (Jeff Koons, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London 1992, p.120). It was through transforming the most banally decorative of mass-produced objects into high art, that he was to make an energetic reassessment of his Pop art forebears. Unlike the criticism implicit in much of the work of first generation Pop artists, Koons believed that as an artist he 'must whisper into the ears of millions of people' (Dan Cameron, NY Art Now: The Saatchi Collection, London 1987, p.38). Thus, we find a unique Koonsian vocabulary, boasting of billboards, kitsch collectibles and memory-less souvenirs, which succeeds in complete erasure of the artist's touch, and taps into the very veins of popular culture.

Koons has described his work as a 'leveller' or 'mediator' and indeed the import of this lowly ornament reinvents the idea of the Readymade in the face of the Twenty First century. 'I am trying to capture the individual's desire in the object, and to fix his or her aspirations in the surface in a condition of morality.' (Ibid., p. 34). By blowing up the cute, the trite, the shiny, Koons cuts to the core of consumer instincts. For all its chintzyness Yorkshire Terriers is a razor-sharp comment on the society that counts Patrick Bateman, the antihero and narrator of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, among the cream of the crop. Yorkshire Terriers is indomitably superficial, and the hallmark of Koons' ability to make an artwork hold a mirror up to the viewer, posing astute questions through the dogs' unendingly vacant gaze.