Friday, May 16, 2008


If the economy is in a recession then someone forgot to tell the art market. On May 14 the Sotheby's New York contemporary sale realized $362,037,000 over 73 lots. This was touted by auctioneer Tobias Meyer as, "Our best sale ever with the highest total ever in our 264 year history." It was only the night before that Christie's contemporary sale realized $348 million over 57 lots. Although there were many highlights, one worth noting was Jeff Koons' creation entitled Caterpillar Chains. (see below)

Jeff Koons was born in York Pennsylvania in 1955 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute of College Art. Koons has long been known as a good self-promoter who relies on shiny, kitschy images to gain public attention. When he created a large gold leaf statue of Michael Jackson holding his chimpanzee, Christopher Knight of the Times referred to it as, "the largest porcelain knickknack in the world." It is just this sort of criticism and controversy that has helped drive the artist's reputation as well as his sales figures.

In the 1980s while Koons was still trying to make a name for himself he worked as a stock broker on Wall Street. This led to the perception that the artist was a product of the decade's overindulgent society. Coupled with his marriage to a Hungarian porn star, divorce from the Hungarian porn star, and a messy child custody battle, Koons was soon viewed in a negative light and the prices of his work began to fall (it would have been a good time to buy!) However, Koons found a way to recover.

After not being invited to participate in Documenta, an exhibit in Germany, the artist decided to unveil his work Puppy (first image on page) close by so that those visiting the exhibit would still see it. Puppy was a forty foot high West Highland Terrier made completely of live flowers. Needless to say, it stole the show and helped Koons' career.

Today Jeff Koons' work records record sales. This is an interesting fact considering the U.S. economy is in a recession similar to the one following the 1980s. At the May 14 Sotheby's sale Koons' work entitled Caterpillar Chains (seen above) from 2003 was purchased for $5,921,000.

Although Caterpillar Chains sold in the millions, not all of Jeff Koons' work is inaccessible to the average art collector. The artist's smaller works, particularly those produced in a series can still be purchased in the low thousand. On May 17 Puppy, porcelain, 1998, numbered 1044/3000 and measuring 17 1/2" high (white dog sculpture above) will be sold at Rago Arts and Auction Center. The estimate for this piece is $2000-$3000. This estimate is a little lower than the sale price of the same work (different number) that sold on 4-4-08 at Ketlerkunt in Hamburg for $5298. If you can't attend the live auction you can place a bid through ebay here.

Balloon Dog, 2002, 10.13 X 10.13, Porcelain

This is one of the shiny creations which is immediately recognizable a work by Jeff Koons. It will also be auctioned at the Rago auction and on ebay. The estimate is $3500-$4500. You can find that auction here.

1 comment:

Virginia said...

Truth, is far stranger, far more absurd, and far worse than fiction.

Much worse these days!

Jeff Koons, this hypocrite of an "artist" - who was never a real artist at all anyway, but a (never-)former stockbroker who played and twisted and pulled the wool over the eyes of the New York Art world real, real well.

Like a really bad nightmare, I have watched as over the years Koons has ascended to the heights of artworld adulation. Here he is nothing less than eulogized by the Guggenheim Museum:

However note: in this written piece, it is as much for his "outrageous clothes and hair" as for his art! This "outrage" in appearance, soon ceased however, as soon as Koons found artworld success. From then on, Koons has looked exactly like the stockbroker he is. His years at First Investors Corporation have served him very, very well.

As sad and even tragic as this is, I think when the winds of truth (finally!) change direction and point in the way of Jeff Koons, the pure sick comedy of the his career will be revealed.

I mean, since you have to laugh went you cannot cry, just look at this excerpt from the above-mentioned article, look at the inanity in it!:

"In 1992, Koon's forty-foot-high sculpture Puppy, a rendering of a West Highland terrier comprised of soil and living, multicolored flowers, was installed in Kassel during Documenta."

A 40' high (kitsch, the word they forgot to mention here) sculpture of a puppy? how crazy/stupid is this?

Apparently, not crazy or stupid enough!!

Isn't it "funny" - that with all the stock market has been through, the art market (home to all of the supposed philosopher kings and standard-bearers and taste-setters and value-setters; the "epicures" of America in other words) is STILL over-valuing Jeff Koons?

No, it is not funny at all. But it is very, very revealing.