THE HISTORY OF NOW: THE COLLECTION OF DAVID TEIGER SOLD TO BENEFIT TEIGER FOUNDATION FOR THE SUPPORT OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Monumentally scaled and dazzlingly vivid, Elephant (Violet) encapsulates the aesthetic exuberance, artistic ambition, and searing individuality which characterize the singular work of Jeff Koons. Conceived in 1995-2000, the present work is a quintessential example from the artist’s widely acclaimed Celebration series; characterized by such iconic sculptures as Balloon Dog and Hanging Heart, Koons's Celebration sculptures seek to capture the jubilant awe of youth, vividly embodied within the universal forms and images surrounding holidays, parties, and other joyful occasions. Executed in stainless steel flawlessly finished with prismatic, jewel-like clarity, Elephant (Violet) is a unique work from a series of five, painstakingly rendered versions, each executed in its own saturated hue. In its grand scale and intoxicating, mirror-polished surface, Elephant (Violet) is powerfully emblematic of Koons's output, offering a seemingly whimsical, even playful archetype while demonstrating extraordinary technical virtuosity in the rendering of exquisitely perfected forms at staggering proportions. Testifying to the significance of the present work, an example of Elephant was included in the 2004 exhibition Jeff Koons: Retrospective, organized by the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, while similar monumental Celebration sculptures have been exhibited within and acquired by numerous prestigious museums worldwide. Acquired by David Teiger in 2004, the present work is revealed here for public exhibition for the first time; transformed by the setting and viewers which surround it, Elephant (Violet) is at once familiar and fantastical, both an imposing totem and irresistible toy, exemplifying the masterful conflation of seeming opposites which defines Koons's inimitable oeuvre.
Comprising sixteen paintings and over twenty sculptures, the mythic Celebration series originates from Koons’s desire to capture and recreate the ecstatic experiences of childhood. Drawing upon the celebratory—and highly commercialized—imagery of holidays and events held throughout the year, the subjects of the Celebration sculptures invoke colorful toys and glittering baubles, blown up to extraordinary proportions. The radiant coloration of the cycle, executed in a prismatic range of Technicolor hues, is likewise highly evocative of childhood; Koons reveals: "The way I’ve tried to treat color in Celebration, it’s just as simple as a pack of Crayola. You have red, you have blue, you have green….the color is bright, it’s fresh, and it’s direct." (The artist cited in Hans Wener Holzwarth, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 400) While elements of the series—everyday objects, childlike forms, mirror-polished surfaces—appear in the artist’s earlier output, in Celebration, Koons has translated these archetypes on a grand scale unanticipated by his prior work. Notoriously exacting in the standards he holds for his own creations, Koons's levels of formal perfection achieved new heights in the elaborate construction and demanding materials of the Celebration sculptures; as a result, the cycle, originally intended to premiere at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1996, was executed over more than a decade, with the artist spending years committed to achieving the desired outcome. The results, as seen in Elephant (Violet), are sculptures of such staggering technical precision and meticulous execution that the soaring steel sculpture appears, somehow, almost weightless. Describing the irresistible allure of the Celebration sculptures, curator Francesco Bonami describes: "All of his mirrored sculptures are there, ready to be lifted up in the sky defying their unlikely monumentality. Jeff Koons's subliminal goal is to create a new monumentality, a new language to celebrate the energy of humankind, the promised land of harmony among men and women, among children and adults." (Francesco Bonami in Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, 2008, p. 15) A monument to the artist's unerring craftsmanship, Elephant (Violet) exemplifies the boundless artistic vision and ambition that characterize the monumental sculptures that have become Koons's signature works. Masterfully conflating luxury and banality, intricacy and simplicity, familiarity and novelty, the dazzling surface of the sculpture absorbs the entirety of its surrounding to emit the viewer’s own image, memories, and emotions, reflected within the flawless and radiant surface.
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