‘Objects are metaphors for people’: Watch Jeff Koons defend banality and resist high-low dichotomies



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Jeff Koons, the world’s most expensive living artist, has always had high goals for his art. Although he often uses everyday objects and pop culture references as inspiration, for example by placing vacuum cleaners on pedestals and presenting them as sculptures, or depicting balloon animals in mirror-polished stainless steel, it is his genius to take these humble reference icons to the next level. to lift. As Koons emphasizes, “Art has to be something very powerful.”

Earlier this week, the artist announced his entry into the world of NFTs on a scale that is literally out of this world. “Jeff Koons: Moon Phases” consists of a series of NFTs corresponding to physical sculptures, a selection of which will be launched to the surface of the moon, where they will remain forever. Koons described the project as a “celebration of humanity’s ambitious achievements”, and the proceeds from some of the initial sales will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Koons says his work has long been rooted in humanism. In an interview with Art21, filmed in 2009 as part of his Art in the twenty-first century series, he laid out his idealized vision of art. †Objects are metaphors for people,” he said, noting that during his career he has returned to similar themes, such as flowers. “It always turns out to be about others. It’s not about accepting that object, high-low culture. It’s about the acceptance of others.”

In the video, the artist explains his interest in banality, the title of one of his early series, featuring sculptures like Michael Jackson and Bubbles and Bear and police officer. The artist also touches on his exhibition at the Château de Versailles, where his large inflatable crustacean sculpture, Lobsterwas suspended from the ceiling of the gilded Salon de MarsWhile it may have been a surreal, light-hearted image for many viewers, for Koons it goes much deeper. †If you look closely, the images on the lobster are like someone being burned at the stake,” the artist says, referring to the creature’s expression. “So you also feel like if you’re in the public eye long enough, that’s an inevitable fate.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Art in the twenty-first century series, below.

This is an episode of ‘Art on Video’, a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 featuring clips from newsmakers. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the twenty-first century is now available on PBS. Watch all episodes of other series, such as New York close up and Extended playand learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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