Jeff Koons plays with ideas of taste, pleasure, celebrity and commerce. “I believe in advertisement and media completely,” he says. “My art and my personal life are based in it.”
Working with seductive commercial materials (such as the high chromium stainless steel of his “Balloon Dog” sculptures or his vinyl “Inflatables”), shifts of scale, and an elaborate studio system involving many technicians, Koons turns banal objects into high art icons.
His paintings and sculptures borrow widely from historical artistic techniques and styles. Although often seen as ironic or tongue-in-cheek, Koons insists his practice is earnest and optimistic.
“I’ve always loved Surrealism and Dada and Pop, so I just follow my interests and focus on them,” he says. “When you do that, things become very metaphysical.”
The “Banality” series that brought him fame in the 1980s included pseudo-Baroque sculptures of subjects like Michael Jackson with his pet ape, while his monumental topiaries, like the floral Puppy (1992), reference 17th-century French garden design.
His works have sold for substantial sums, including one world record auction price for a work by a living artist. On November 12 2013, Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York for US$58.4 million, above its high US$55 million estimate, topping his previous record of US$33.7 million and making it the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction.