GROUND LEVEL, GALLERY 1
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, BORN 1955
LIVES AND WORKS IN NEW YORK
With a stated intention to ‘communicate with the masses’, Jeff Koons is one of the most influential and popular artists of his generation. Venus 2016–20 is part of Koons’ ongoing Porcelain series which juxtaposes classical ideals of beauty with sophisticated contemporary production technologies. The over life-size, mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture is based on an 18th century porcelain figurine of the same name by Wilhelm Christian Meyer. Mirrors and reflection have long been a hallmark of Koons’s work and he has cited his love for the intoxicating quality of the reflection and its resulting distortion, as well as its ability to implicate the viewer within the work. ‘One of the most used words in philosophy is to “reflect”. To reflect is an inward process, but also an outward process,’ says Koons. ‘The use of reflective surfaces was to connect the work to philosophy and the experience of becoming. And that we not only have our internal life, but we also have the external world – this interaction is what gives us a future. Reflections tell the viewer that nothing is ever happening without them. Art happens inside them.’
Jeff Koons is widely regarded for his diverse practice which holds a mirror up to contemporary culture. Using the photorealistic and commercial aesthetic familiar from an earlier generation of Pop artists, Koons has generated his own universally recognisable style that frequently comprises smooth, highly reflective surfaces and bright, saturated colours. Koons typically works in series, tapping into subject matter from popular culture and art history that is frequently reminiscent of childhood in order to, as he notes, empower the viewer towards achieving a state of personal transcendence. The figure of Venus, goddess of love and fertility, has long influenced his work, appearing directly since the late 1970s.
Born in York, Pennsylvania, Koons studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received his B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1976.
The NGV warmly thanks Triennial Champions Loti & Victor Smorgon Fund, Leigh Clifford AO & Sue Clifford, John Higgins AO & Jodie Maunder and Paula Fox AO & Fox Family Foundation for their support.