Jeff Koons, detail of Gazing Ball (Turner Ancient Rome), 2015 © Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons was born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania. He received his B.F.A. at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since his emergence in the 1980s, Jeff Koons has blended the concerns and methods of Pop, Conceptual, and appropriation art with craft-making and popular culture to create his own unique iconography, often controversial and always engaging. His work explores contemporary obsessions with sex and desire; race and gender; and celebrity, media, commerce, and fame. A self-proclaimed “idea man,” Koons hires artisans and technicians to make the actual works. For him, the hand of the artist is not the important issue: “Art is really just communication of something and the more archetypal it is, the more communicative it is.”
Jeff Koons's artwork rarely inspires moderate responses, and this is one signal of the importance of his achievement. Focusing on some of the most unexpected objects as models for his work, Koons's work eschews typical standards of “good taste” in art and zeroes in precisely on the vulnerabilities of hierarchies and value systems. As critic Christopher Knight has written, “He turns the traditional cliché of the work of art inside out: rather than embodying a spiritual or expressive essence of a highly individuated artist, art here is composed from a distinctly American set of conventional middle-class values.”
Since his first solo show in 1980, Koons's work has been widely exhibited internationally. Museum exhibitions include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1992); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1992); ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (1993); Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany (1993); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1993); Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples (2003); Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2004); Helsinki City Art Museum (2005); “Jeff Koons on the Roof,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2008); “Jeff Koons: Celebration,” Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2008–09); “Jeff Koons: Versailles,” Château de Versailles, France (2008–09); “Jeff Koons: Popeye Series,” Serpentine Gallery, London (2009); “Coloring Book by Jeff Koons,” Royal Academy of Arts, London (2011); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2012); “Jeff Koons: The Painter and the Sculptor,” Schirn Kunsthalle and Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt (2012); “Jeff Koons: Split-Rocker,” Rockefeller Center, New York (2014); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2014, traveled to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain); “Jeff Koons in Florence,” Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria, Florence (2015); and “Balloon Venus (Orange),” Natural History Museum Vienna (2015–16).
Koons currently lives and works in New York.