This summer, the Schirn Kunsthalle and the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung will be devoting themselves to the work of the U.S. American artist Jeff Koons (born in 1955), who has played a pioneering role in the contemporary art world since the 1980s. The two concurrent shows will deliberately separate the sculptural and painterly aspects of his oeuvre and present each in a context of its own. Encompassing some forty paintings, the presentation entitled "Jeff Koons. The Painter” at the Schirn will focus primarily on the artist’s structural development as a painter. With motifs drawn from a diverse range of high and pop-cultural sources, his monumental painted works combine hyper-realistic and gestural elements to form complexes as compact in imagery as they are with regard to content. In the show "Jeff Koons. The Sculptor” at the Liebieghaus, on the other hand, altogether around 50 world-famous as well as entirely new sculptures by Jeff Koons will enter into dialogues with the historical building and a sculpture collection spanning five millennia. Jeff Koons’s Antiquity, a new series in which he explores antique art and its central motif – Eros – will debut in Frankfurt on this occasion.
In his paintings and sculptures, Jeff Koons employs elements from the consumer world and "high culture” alike, quotes artistic epochs as readily as he does objects from everyday life and advertising, and thus draws our attention again and again to such categories as beauty and desirability. Within this context, he has become an unequalled master of the interplay between the sublime and the banal. Although his works quote familiar motifs from the consumer context, it is not for the sake of kitsch and irony. In an interview he commented: "I work with things that are sometimes referred to as kitsch, even if kitsch per se has never interested me. I always try to convey self-confidence, a certain inner sense of security, to the viewer. My chief concern in my work is the viewer.” Koons is interested "not in the complexity, but in the simplicity of being” and its acceptance. This aspect finds expression in his oeuvre in elementary themes such as childhood or sexuality. Contrary to the long tradition of subjectivity in art, however, Koons constantly emphasizes artistic objectivity, working in the tradition of the "ready-made.” Both his sculptures and his paintings have a particularly evocative and striking effect on the viewer through their exquisite craftsmanship and the lure of their surfaces.
Curators: Vinzenz Brinkmann (Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung), Matthias Ulrich (Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt), and Joachim Pissarro (New York)
Jeff Koons. The Sculptor
In the exhibition "Jeff Koons. The Sculptor” at the Liebieghaus, the artist’s sculptures will be integrated into the museum’s own collection, which mirrors the history of sculpture from antiquity to Neoclassicism. In close cooperation with the artist, one of his numerous and often iconic sculptural works will be introduced to each of the Liebieghaus’s various sections, causing a range of widely different dialogues to ensue. The entire Liebieghaus ensemble – the richly detailed historicist villa, the gallery buildings and the large, fairy-tale-castle-like garden – will together accommodate the sculptures by Jeff Koons like a single big stage.
In various galleries, the presence of the Koons works will create visual plays in which they will often be discerned only on closer inspection. In his Statuary series, Koons consistently adheres to the motifs and forms of the European Baroque. It is left to the idiosyncratic choice of materials alone to trigger a suspenseful encounter between the modern Baroque forms cast in highly polished steel and the historical Baroque portraits in the Frankfurt collection. Other works, for their part, demonstrate astounding proximity to the historical works as regards material. In those cases, however, it is the motifs that will contrast strongly, for example when the colourfully glazed terracotta altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia is juxtaposed with the polychrome porcelain figure of a Woman in Tub (from the Banality series). In another room, Koons’s famous porcelain sculpture of pop idol Michael Jackson, showing him in a golden suit with his monkey "Bubbles”, will bask in the wide-eyed gazes of the partially gilded Egyptian death masks of Priestess Takait and the gods of the Egyptian pantheon.
The chief focus of the encounter between Koons and the history of sculpture so uniquely represented by the Liebieghaus will be the matter of the "migration of images” – Koons’s quotations and borrowings from past art-historical epochs. The story of Eros in his original Greek significance – above all in the pictorial context of Aphrodite, the goddess of love – will provide the leitmotif that links famous Jeff Koons works with masterpieces of antiquity. The affinity will perhaps be most evident in works from Koons’s most recent series, entitled Antiquity, which has not yet been shown to the public. These creations make direct reference to grandiose sculptures of Greek antiquity conjuring up the world of Dionysus and the goddess of love. At the same time, they illustrate the degree to which Koons translates antique traditions into modern forms – and proposes a modern approach to grasping their meaning in the process.