this issue contains
>> Jeff Koons: Interview
>> A World Full of Multiples: Richard Prince
>> The Art of Shopping
>> Painting at a Rate of 150 Beats per Minute: Michel Majerus

>> archive


Have you ever shot a commercial?

I shot a print ad for Calvin Klein and for Prada.

Sounds like that mimicked art rather than using advertising as a form.

It’s not the same vocabulary. I’ve never been hired by Coca Cola, where you use everything you understand about sociology and images for the benefit of Coca Cola.

How did you turn the 1986 stainless steel sculpture "Rabbit" into an icon that defies association?

Jeff Koons, Tulips, 2004, ©Jeff Koons

Rabbit comes from a series called Statuary. Rabbit was art as fantasy. I was referencing indoor/outdoor sculpture; where I grew up in Pennsylvania, there were a lot of glass mercury bowls in people’s yards. The rabbit has tension and sexuality. I was going back and forth whether to make an inflatable rabbit or pig, and the rabbit won. My next body of work after Statuary was Banality.

Why the pig?

It’s an animal that’s looked down upon. The vocabulary of the Banality show was about accepting one’s cultural history. There’s a self-debasement using the pig. I’m trying to make works that people embrace for who they are – then they can start on a more objective path.

Koons' studio, 2005
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005.
All rights reserved.

In a lot of your work, there’s a strange familiarity, like a lost relative who shows up and who’s actually not part of the family.

I want people to feel comfortable around the images. When they look at art, it’s very brief. I want to contribute to a communal life.

How did your early training as a broker help you in the art world?

Jeff Koons, Hair with Cheese, from the series " Easyfun-Ethereal", 2000
Deutsche Bank Collcetion, ©Jeff Koons

Long before I was a broker, when I was a child, I went door to door with my parents selling candy, gift-wrapping paper, and other products. My parents drove me around and parked the car in different communities and then picked me up. This taught me self-reliance and a sense of difference and acceptance. I never knew who would open the door or the quality of the living room.

How old were you?

Eight. I wanted to sell the product, but it was a way of meeting their needs.

If they didn’t believe you, they wouldn’t buy a thing. It was also the end of the door-to-door salesman.

Jeff Koons, Bluepoles, from the series " Easyfun-Ethereal", 2000
Deutsche Bank Collection, ©Jeff Koons

That’s why I did the Hoover vacuum cleaner series – as a reference to the door-to-door salesman. People in sales are on the front line of our culture.

How does amusement function in your work? I’m thinking about the 2000 painting "Bluepoles" that has been shown at the Deutsche Guggenheim. It depicts a state fair where happy, but distorted characters are on a roller coaster.

I just took my children to a state fair in Pennsylvania this weekend and they saw pig races and jelly bean contests… In Blue Poles, I thought of Jackson Pollock. That painting has a darker side.

Your work rides between pain and pleasure.

As in Caterpillar Chains . Caterpillar Ladder is in the back room. You don’t know if it’s a piece of furniture for the bedroom.

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