press release

Hardly any other contemporary artist has generated as much discussion around his life and work as US artist Jeff Koons (b. 1955). On Saturday 4th September at 2 pm the official opening of Jeff Koons’s Retrospective at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art will take place – a unique opportunity to get to know the many facets of his wide-ranging artistic career.

From the moment Jeff Koons displayed his inflatable readymades mounted on mirrors in the late 70s, his work has never left the limelight of contemporary art. With his Hoovers and basket balls, shiny rabbits and ceramic figures, along with his philosophizing over the nature of art and aesthetics, Jeff Koons has challenged our notions of good taste and created a highly individual artistic language.

Appreciation of his work was helped by the sophisticated discourse Jeff Koons initiated at a relatively early date, which also gave his work a special place among appropriation artists of the 1980s. Many consider his 1983 series The New, to be his breakthrough. The work is a politico-philosophical conceptualisation of “The New” – a term which reverberates not only across consumer society but the world of art as well. Koons gave expression to banality in a 1988 series inspired by American middle-class aesthetics. The ceramic sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles is based on a type of aesthetic vernacular which long remained the exclusive province of royalty and aristocracy, but which today is thoroughly democratised and exploited in cheap baubles and mass-produced objects. The works which make up the Banality series could be interpreted in terms of a political manifesto for which Jeff Koons uses the art stage as a site to overturn received wisdom on good and bad taste. The exhibition presents works from every one of Koons’s series, including several recent works not previously shown in Europe, and builds on works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection’s own not insignificant Jeff Koons collection and items loaned to us by European and American institutions and private collectors.

With this comprehensive retrospective the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art wants to highlight Jeff Koons’s exceptional standing in contemporary art. No living artist has done as much as Koons to unravel the notion of aesthetics.

To accompany the exhibition, the Museum is publishing a specially prepared catalogue featuring among other things an essay by the philosopher Arthur C. Danto, one of today’s leading Koons experts. Here, Danto explores Jeff Koons’s artistic identity. The catalogue also features a specially commissioned interview for this exhibition with Jeff Koons by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rem Koolhaas. The exhibition, a production of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, is curated by Gunnar B. Kvaran, Grete Årbu and Hanne Beate Ueland, and will be visiting Helsinki City Art Museum from January to April, 2005.

Jeff Koons