Lot 37
  • 37

Jeff Koons

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
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  • Jeff Koons
  • Lobster
  • polychromed aluminum, coated steel chain
  • 97 x 18 7/8 x 37 in. 246.4 x 47.9 x 94 cm.
  • Executed in 2003, this work is number three from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.


Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2003


New York, Sonnabend Gallery, Popeye, November - December 2003 (another example)
London, Gagosian Gallery, Davies Street, Jeff Koons: Popeye, June - July 2007 (another example)
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, May - September 2008, p. 104, illustrated in color (ed. no. 3/3, the present work)


Ingrid Abramovitch, "American Scene: This Month on the Design Beat," House & Garden, August 2004, p. 59, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., New York, C&M Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, 2004, pl. 20, p. 63 and p. 89, illustrated in color (ed. no. 1/3)
Linda Yablonsky, "Jeff Koons," Art + Auction, March 2004, p. 37, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, and travelling, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, 2004 - 2005, p. 32 and p. 114, illustrated in color (another example)
Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, Jeff Koons (Supercontemporanea series), Milan, 2006, pp.88-89, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Maria Chiara Valacchi, "Jeff Koons," Muse World Style (Italy), no. 7, Spring 2007, pp. 40-51, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, Jeff Koons: Hulk Elvis, 2007, fig. no. 42, p. 41, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
"Jeff Koons: Popeye and Jeff Koons: Hulk Elvis at Gagosian Gallery, Davies Street and Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street," Art and Living, Summer 2007, no. 6, p. 108, illustrated (ed. no. unknown) 
Josiah McElheny, "Readymade Resistance: Art and the Forms of Industrial Production," Artforum, October 2007, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown) 
Stephanie Seymour, "Jeff Koons: Art Made in Heaven," Whitewall, Fall 2007, p. 125, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Philip Utz, "Catching up with Jeff Koons," Numéro (Tokyo), no. 6, September 2007, pp. 64-69, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Gunnar B. Kvaran, Arthur C. Danto, Hanne Beate Ueland, Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jeff Koons: Retrospettivamente, Milan, 2007, p. 32, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Helianthe Bourdeaux-Martin, "Profile - Dominique Levy," Whitewall, Winter 2008, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007, p. 529, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the front cover (p. 543, illustrated in color in the 2009 edition) [ed. no. unknown]
Susan Stamberg, "Jeff Koons has a 'Ta-Da' Moment in Chicago," NPR, Morning Edition, 25 July 2008, illustrated (ed. no. 3/3, the present work)
Exh. Cat., Versailles, Chateau de Versailles, Jeff Koons Versailles, 2008-09, p. 142, illustrated in color and pp. 49, 50 and 51 illustrated in color in installation at the Chateau de Versailles (ed. no. 2/3)
Sylvie Gassot, "Jeff Koons: il Fait sa Revolution Pop Chez Louis XIV," Gala, August 2008, p. 78, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
"King Koons" in French Elle, August 18, 2008, p. 93, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Vincent Noce, "Coup de Koons a Versailles," Liberation, August 26, 2008, p. 28, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Laurence Dreyfus, "Jeff Koons, Roi Soleil," l'Officiel, September 2008, p. 331, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Laurence Dreyfus, "En Grande Pompe," l'Optimum, September 2008, p. 113, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Charles Andrew, "Koons at Versailles," So Chic, 2008, p. 27, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Sylvie Gassot, "Jeff Koons a Versailles: Provocation ou Revolution?" Paris Capitale, no. 134, September 2008, p. 57, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
"Le Mois: Coups de Koons," Femmes, September 2008, p. 57, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
"Art contemporain: Les temps forts," Le Figaro et vous, September 4, 2008, p. 30, illustrated (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Annick Colonna-Cesari, "De l'art ou du homard?" L'Express, September 4, 2008, p. 122, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Bernard Genies, "Un artiste revolutionnaire," Challenges, September 4, 2008, p. 85, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Laetitia Cenac, "le roi Koons a Versailles," Madame Figaro, September 6, 2008, p. 138, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Matthieu Suc, "Jeff Koons bouscule Versailles," Le Parisien, September 10, 2008, p. 31, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Patrice de Meritens, "Un homard geant a Versailles, est-ce bien raisonnable?" Le Figaro Magazine, September 13, 2008, p. 46, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Yasmine Youssi, "Jeff Koons s'offre la vie de chateau," La Tribune, September 12-13, 2008, p. 28, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Bernard Genies, "Tiens, voila du hommard!" le nouvel Observateur, September 17, 2008, p. 117, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Catherine Schwaab, "Art contemporain: la Folie n'a plus de prix," Match, Paris, September 25, 2008, p. 77, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Jean-Pierre Frimbois, "Jeff Koons: son Pari a Versailles," art actuel, no. 58, September - October 2008, p. 8, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Michael Houellebecq, "Jeff Koons," Art World, issue 7, October/November 2008, p. 33, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Sylvie Lambert, "Jeff Koons," l'Officiel Hommes, Fall-Winter 2008/2009, p. 105, illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Laura Moure Cecchini, "Jeff Koons: La estetizacion del consumismo," in Textofilia, no. 17, Mexico 2008, p. 59, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Jeff Koons: Popeye, 2009, p. 34, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery, Jeff Koons: New Paintings, 2009 - 2010, p. 5, fig. 9, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown) and p. 22, illustrated in color (the artist with the sculpture)
Marybeth Sollins, ed., art: 21, Dalton, 2009, p. 90, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
“Jeff Koons the Top Selling Living Artist,” Harper’s Bazaar Men’s Style (Beijing Edition), February 2010, p 158 illustrated in color (Versailles installation, ed. no. 2/3)
Elliott H. King, Salvador Dali: The Late Work (High Museum of Art Series), New Haven, September 2010, p. 9, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
The Brant Foundation, Remembering Henry’s Show, Greenwich, 2010 p. 9 (detail), p. 79 (partial view in installation), pp. 109 and 175, and inside cover of dust jacket (detail), illustrated in color (ed. no. 3/3)


This sculpture is in excellent condition. The steel chain is made in sections to accommodate different ceiling heights.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

A visually and conceptually provocative masterwork, Koons’ Lobster from 2003 stands at the apex of his artistic output to date. As it enters into a reverential yet playful dialogue with its artistic antecedents, the present work simultaneously solidifies its crucial place in the post-Pop era. Intertwining humor and sex, references to the past, and an extreme level of artistic precision, the present work is a stunning example of the accumulation of themes from throughout Koons’ oeuvre, immediately conjuring in the viewer powerful feelings of awe and wonderment.

Lobster presents its viewer with a dual experience: we are consumed by familiarity and nostalgia, summoning childhood memories of summers spent by the pool; at the same time, we sense the tension between the work’s physical appearance and what we know to be true about its material composition. Koons performs a metamorphosis on the present work, expertly and meticulously manipulating aluminum and polychrome to exactly resemble the texture and quality of plastic. From the pneumatic appearance of Lobster to the way its surface ripples and stretches at various points, all of the visual cues we receive communicate a message of air-filled lightness and soft plastic. Like so many of Koons’ most significant works, the present work is both playful and perplexing.

The process by which Lobster was created typifies the collaborative nature of Koons’ studio. Production begins with Koons seeking out a genuine plastic pool toy. A mold is formed around the inflated toy and further covered in a coating to protect the integrity and natural plasticity of the object. The precise contours carefully recorded, the work is finally cast in aluminum, whereby it returns to Koons’ studio to be painted in vibrant red, yellow, white and black. Our eyes are attracted to the bright hues and our fingers long to touch what we are sure is supple plastic – we are entirely attracted to this surprising and visually stunning object. For Koons, “The finished work…always emanates a sensuous appeal, triggering desires deeply familiar to consumerist behavior. With Koons we are dealing with seduction.” (Exh. Cat., New York, C&M Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, 2004, p. 9)

Lobster certainly seduces. Besides the inherent and complex tactility provided by its contradictory surface, the present work, according to Koons himself, exudes both male and female sexuality. The body of the lobster with its long mid-section and projecting claws is implicitly phallic. The tail of the sculpture, conversely, is feminine in its smooth undulations. These sexual connotations combine in a powerful way when considering the most fascinating formal feature of the work: the conflation of hard and soft. The mystique of plastic-like aluminum is thus redoubled by the distinctly female connotations of softness giving way to the reality of masculine rigidity. By incorporating themes of humor and sexuality into the present work Koons effectively perpetuates his own art historical past. Lobster, however, is an equally meaningful and deliberate homage to his Surrealist and Dada predecessors: Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp and Dalí, despite their stylistic and conceptual differences, both used their art to render the ordinary extraordinary. So too does Koons – Lobster enters the formidable lineage of works such as Aqualung from 1985 and Balloon Dog from 1994-2000 – but in a way that takes the legacies of Dalí and Duchamp to new heights.

Koons’ choice of a lobster as his pool toy model is an evident reference to Dalí. In his seminal work Lobster Telephone from 1936, Dalí fastened a rubber lobster onto the back of a rotary telephone receiver. The resulting work embodies a central tenet of Surrealism: the juxtaposition of two seemingly disparate entities to create an entirely novel object, verging on the absurd. Dalí enacts a fascinating transformation on his quotidian telephone when he affixes a lobster to it, at once ridding it of its function and revitalizing it as an entirely new thing. Koons has similarly elevated his plastic pool toy by approaching it with his signature mastery of technique and concept. Lobster likewise tackles the legacy of Duchamp. In its mode of display the present work echoes one of Duchamp’s most formidable readymades, In Advance of a Broken Arm, which is comprised of a shovel hanging from the ceiling. Duchamp’s major artistic breakthrough came from declaring bought and found objects as art, thereby de-prioritizing the skill of the artist. Speaking while in the midst of his Popeye series Koons stated: “I’ve returned to the ready-made. I’ve returned to really enjoying thinking about Duchamp. The whole world seems to have opened itself up again to me, the dialogue of art” (Exh. Cat., Versailles, Jeff Koons Versailles, October 2008-April 2009, p.25). Koons fully acknowledges and embraces his work’s dialogue with the past and allows this art historical relationship to continue to inspire his output.

Aside from its suspended installation, we see Duchamp’s profound influence in the readymade chain that serves to display and entrap Lobster. Wrought out of steel and painted in the same brilliant red as the body of the lobster, the chain is in fact the only true readymade in Lobster. The sculpture itself, though it taunts us with the possibility that it is store bought, is fundamentally different from Duchamp’s works. With Lobster, “[Koons] proves himself at once the most slavish adherent to Duchamp’s legacy and also its strongest and canniest misinterpreter. For if the Frenchman proposed that any object could be art by virtue of the artist’s declaration alone, then Koons makes it so not just by naming it as such but by investing its double with the most hard-won and exacting mimetic methodologies.” (Exh. Cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, Jeff Koons: Hulk Elvis, 2009, p. 40) The present work expertly fuses the innovations of Dalí and Duchamp while honoring the immense skill and collaboration of Koons and his studio.

Lobster is the epitome of Koons' astounding ability to synthesize art historical influences with the themes that pervade his own artistic trajectory. Paying tribute to Surrealism and Dada, but never surrendering his characteristic humor or extreme focus on technical precision, Lobster creates a singular impact: we are visually attracted, sensually seduced, and conceptually challenged and surprised all at once.