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  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Sonnabend Gallery and Cologne, Max Hetzler Galerie, Made in Heaven, November 15 –December 14, 1991; San Francisco Museum of Art, Jeff Koons, December 10, 1992– February 7, 1993; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, July 10 – October 3, 1993; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, November 28, 1992 – January 3, 1993, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, January 22 – February 28, 1993; and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, March 12 – April 18, 1993 Jeff Koons-Retrospektiv;  Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, The Age of Modernism – Art in the 20th Century, May 7-July 27, 1997; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Self-Portraits, 1998; Aspen Art Museum, Warhol, Koons, Hirst: Cult and Culture, August 3 – September 30, 2001; Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Jeff Koons, June 9 – September 15, 2003

  • Literature

    R. Rosenblum, ed., The Jeff Koons Handbook, London/NewYork, 1992, pp.121 and cover (illustrated) and p. 164; A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 155 (illustrated); San Francisco Museum of Art andWalker Art Center, eds., Jeff Koons, New York, 1992, pl. 52 and back cover (illustrated);V. Andersen, J. Koons, and A. Kold, Jeff Koons, Aarhus, 1993, p.72 (illustrated); D. Sobel, D. Ebony, and K. Logan, Warhol/Koons/Hirst: Cult and Culture, Aspen, 2001, pl. 19 (illustrated); M. Grynsztejn, ed., Supernova: Art of the 1990s from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2003, p. 21 (illustrated); K. Logan and D. Sobel, Post Modern Portraiture, Vail, 2005, pl. 12 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jeff Koon’s series Made in Heaven was a sensation when exhibited at the Sonnabend Gallery in 1991, drawing more attention than the work of any artist since Andy Warhol’s pop works of the 1960s. A presentation of self-glorifying artworks, Jeff Koons was always a part of his art in an abstract way, but in Made in Heaven and in particular the present lot, Self-Portrait, he entered into his art completely by obliterating the line between artist and artwork by offering an idealized likeness of himself in a sublime marble sculpture. The work became an astonishing fusion of art and life, of fantasy and reality.
    Self-Portrait offers an idealized likeness of the artist in the form of a traditional art-historical marble bust. The artist continues to deftly mix the high culture signatories of classical art with the low brow aesthetics of pornography in this work, a quintessential piece from the Made in Heaven series. Koons co-opts the bust-length portrait, for use in his over-the-top kitsch way, referencing a long history of portraiture generally reserved for gods, emperors, kings and saints, to display the artist as a god-like figure.
    From the beginning of his artistic career Koons has employed the sexuality latent in inanimate objects.The works often resonated with sexual symbolism and achieved much of their power from sexual signals. Made in Heaven pushed this fusion of sex and art to its peak, where all structures are bursting with visual signifiers of sexual power. Made in Heaven consists of photographic and sculptural works that represent Koon’s desire to use self-portraiture as a medium for physical and spiritual transcendence. No artist had ever fused fantasy and reality so completely and no artist had ever created and entered into an artistic world to the extent that Koons did at this time.
    In preparation for this series, Koons began a rigorous program of self transformation where he worked on his own body as if it were a sculpture. He hired a personal trainer who had formerly trained America’s top body builders and embarked on a strict diet. Koons spent nearly half the day working out for two years and was soon ready to participate in his art as a human readymade.
    Additionally, Koons found an aesthetic counterpart for Made in Heaven in Cicciolina, the self-created media identity of Ilona Staller, a famous European porn star and one-time member of the Italian parliament. Koons constructed a fantasy world with Cicciolina which started as a stage set for photographic and sculptural tableaux, but rapidly became a fictional love story which would culminate with heavenly union. In the preliminary stages of their relationship, Koons and Cicciolina fell deeply in love and eventually married in an act of romantic commitment which achieved the level of meaning and integrity that Koons aspired to in his work.
    “In Jeff Koons’ work, pornography is of no more than statistical importance, and yet it required far more personal and technical commitment. For this very reason, it is a commitment of great interest – the totality of the risk taken points up the limits and failure (which is not strictly speaking a failure, since limits and failure are inherent in the method).The simulation mechanics of the image, and its potential for fictionalization, are more apparent in pornographic object-discourse than in other fields, drawing the artifact and the loneliness of the individual, the artist himself, to our attention. In Made in Heaven, Koons has given something of himself in a manner hitherto unique for an artist.The skeptic may reply: “Well so what?” I see it differently. In the way he encodes fictionality and its material form, Koons has expressed the interchangeability of the private and the public. From his point of view, it is a radical action.” (J.C. Ammann, “Jeff Koons: Triumph out of Failure,” Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p.11)
    The revolutionary breakdown of artistic boundaries in Made in Heaven stems from Koons’s perception of the artist as creator. In Self-Portrait, Koons has expanded his role to play both creator and muse simultaneously, a jarring display of narcissism that is characteristic of the artist’s oeuvre. Sculpture is one of the most primitive mediums for honoring gods and important historical luminaries. As visual representations of religious figures and myths or physical likenesses of emperors and kings, sculpture continues to serve as a tool for disseminating political information.
    Symbols for power and spirituality are highly potent means of expression inWestern culture.The artist’s idealized, blissful expression of ecstasy contains evident similarities with the Baroque sculptor Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini’s most famous sculpture, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, 1647 (fig. 1). Bernini tosses the head of the saint backwards in a motion of orgasmic elation, using humanity’s capacity for sexual joy to express the transformative nature of communion with god. The bravado in Koons’ sculpture could only be matched by the attitude captured in another work by Bernini - his bust of Louis XIV, executed in 1665 (Figure 2). Self-Portrait has a majestic expression of sexual pleasure, but as a god-like experience in itself rather than a metaphor for religious rapture.
    One also thinks of the bust of Caligula (fig. 3), who was most recently recognized through the highly sexual, camp film from 1979 of the same name written by Gore Vidal and produced by Bob Guccione of Penthouse fame and recently parodied in artist Francesco Vezzoli’s Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal's 'Caligula,' which appeared in the 2005 Venice Biennale and the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Caligula’s visual legacy is an apt comparison to Koons himself and his artistic interests at the time Self-Portrait was produced. It becomes possible to observe important parallels between the historical uses of sculpture and Self-Portrait, where the visual clues for power, arrogance and dominance are conveyed through the proud turn of the head, the stately posture, and the resplendent phallic crystals at the base.
    For Koons, godliness is an important conceit in understanding the function his art is intended to fulfill both personally and publicly. Koons views himself as a god-like celebrity- a consequence of his ability to present controversial imagery and topics to great critical and financial success within the art world. Embedded within the art-historical conventions it emulates, Self-Portrait is emblematic of the ever-lasting legacy contemporary celebrities seek to impart upon posterity.The fetishization of celebrity in present day popular culture is “a system that defines humanity as an obsessive, self-reflective, self-observing system.” (J.C. Ammann, “Jeff Koons:Triumph out of Failure,” Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p.8)
    The egotistic and narcissistic undercurrents that support the emotive power in Self-Portrait are crucial to the dissolution of boundaries between art and life.Through a strategic use of seductive, sensual imagery, deftly combined with kitschy, pretentious, and often explicitly vulgar subject matter, the Made in Heaven series serves as a contemporary critique of religion, morality and sexuality through the visual structures of post-modern art.
    Koons’s Self-Portrait is an exemplary work of arrogance and entrepreneurialism, high and low culture, and materiality versus immateriality. Endowed with Koons’s characteristic ability to stimulate the obscene with an imaginative and inventive intellectual prowess, Self-Portrait captures the material culture which defined the epochal spirit of the 1980s. In this vein, Self-Portrait exposes the complex artificiality of material culture by becoming ever more real in its ritualized self-determination.



37 1/2 x 20 1/2 x 14 1/2 in. (95.3 x 52.1 x 36.8 cm).
This work is from an edition of three plus one artist’s proof.

$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 

Sold for $7,545,000

Contemporary Art Part I

15 May 2008, 7pm
New York