Art Thowback: Jeff Koons – A Retrospective

As well as seeing my loved ones, eating great food and hoping to get a bit of colour on my face (that didn’t happen), one of my other tiny reasons for wanting to go back to my home town in Spain in September was because I was a little too excited about Jeff Koon’s retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. I have been obsessed with this man’s work ever since the Guggenheim first opened in Bilbao – from Puppy to tulips, his ridiculous pieces always put a big fat smile on my face. Call me shallow, but what’s not to love about giant balloon dogs and a giant dog made of flowers? 

The exhibition ended on the 27th of September – I managed to see it about two weeks before and was not the least bit disappointed. Who knows why, but with this exhibition visitors were allowed to photograph certain pieces (only from specific angles though, which was weird and slightly annoying). Naturally I was naughty and took more than a few pictures…

This is, of course, my favourite piece. Everyone should have a giant pink balloon dog in their lives.

This lobster dude is pretty ridiculous – but he’s fun and takes a good photo.

How amazing is this Popeye? He’s never looked this good (or lavish).

If Jeff Koons actually paints these amazing paintings, he’s bloody gifted. I love hyperrealism and found these bizarre and elaborate collages fascinating. They reminded me of the work of another sort-of-pop artist and one of my all time favourites, James Rosenquist.

One of the rooms featured Classical Greek sculptures holding metallic balls. I found these homages to classical Greek sculpturors interesting, but ultimately not as interesting or eye-catching as his other work as it’s essentially a copy and reinterpretation, no?

The exhibition consisted mainly of his awesome paintings, cute toy-like sculptures and stranger pieces, like this Michael Jackson piece (created in 1988, long before the darker and much-publicised periods of the singer). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t admire all of Jeff Koons’ work. His early pieces seem to have consisted mainly of ‘found’ objects, like inflatable balloons and cheap toys – this form of art has never interested me, whether it’s Duchamp or some other ‘contemporary’ artist.

I end it with two of my all-time favourite Koons pieces and Guggenheim Bilbao permanent, ‘Puppy’ (which is, let’s face it, a symbol of Bilbao) and ‘Tulips’, which I feel the need to photograph every time I see it.
This is what the Guggenheim has to say about Jeff Koons’ exhibition: “The oeuvre of Jeff Koons is a statement of self-affirmation, his
paintings and sculptures invite us to reassert our individuality and
flout certain taboos and conventions that box us in, limiting our role
in society. Koons uses art as a wake-up call, a driving force of social
change. The false luxury of some of his pieces, achieved by using
industrial materials made to look deceptively lavish, and his references
to well-known archetypes make viewers feel comfortable with their own
cultural history.”

Whilst I may have a love-hate relationship with modern and contemporary art, I find it impossible not to enjoy Koons’ wacky work. One can try to intellectualise (like how the Guggenheim tried) it and say it’s a celebration of modern culture, or perhaps a reflection of consumerism, but I love it for what it is. It’s excessive, colourful, childish and silly – and I mean that in a good way. Modern art can at times be so pretentious, so what’s wrong with making art that appeals to the masses? Art really does come in all shapes and sizes – it should thrill, terrify, move, make us think, make us learn… and make us happy. It needn’t always be deep or serious – hence why the beautiful banality of Jeff Koons is my guilty pleasure.

A few days before finishing this piece I found out about the website Artsy, which strives to make all of the world’s art accessible to all. A big mission, I may add – but what a lovely website. So if any of you would like to find out more about Jeff Koons and actually understand his work a little better, have a click here.

This is my last Spanish throwback – my next posts will be all about London town.

Photographs taken by moi on September 10th, 2015 at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.



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