Jeff Koons - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "I like to think that when you leave the room, the art leaves the room. Art is about your own possibilities as a human being. It’s about your own excitement, your own potential, and what you can become. It affirms your existence."
    —Jeff Koons
    Contrasting high and low artforms, Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball (Demeter), executed in 2014, fuses an iconic work from the history of art with an artifact of banal consumerism. Appropriating one of the most iconic sculptural forms of the classical past, Koons recasts Pheidias’ Demeter from the East pediment of the Parthenon, today in the collection of the British Museum, as a decorative ornament cut off from the lofty pretensions of the aesthetic academicism. Koons’ outrageous democratization of taste radically celebrates visual culture of all forms, high and low.


    Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., 1919. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Reseource, NY, Arwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

    Celebrated for its daring facsimiles of art historical icons, the Gazing Ball series presents viewers with contemporary impressions in the manner of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades and his radical reinterpretations of historically significant artworks. The Gazing Ball works are part of the lineage of the avant-garde but are firmly rooted in the cultural milieu of the American middle class. Koons presents the gazing ball as talisman of his hometown of York, Pennsylvania, where the glass ornaments are ubiquitous accoutrements of suburban lawns and gardens. Pairing the gazing ball with an image of antiquity whose very nature mirrors the vaunted pantheon of art history, the spectacular finish of the ball is juxtaposed with its popular use as pedestrian decoration and conflates the ordinary with the surreal, fueling the debate about taste that is paradigmatic of Koons’s conceptual project. The artist proposes an equilibrium between contemporary mass culture and the ivory towers of art history; arguing for the appreciation of quotidian imagery, Koons questions the arbitrary distinctions between high and low art, positioning his output firmly between these predetermined aesthetic poles.


    Pheidias, Demeter and Persephone, 438BC-432 BC. The Parthenon Sculptures, British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum

    Essential to Koons’s practice is the consideration of the viewer's participation in the experience of the artwork. Informed by Alois Riegl’s writings on the relationship between artwork and viewer, Koons believes in the philosophy of embrace, establishing a symbiotic relationship between viewers, the artwork, and the spaces they share. Koons is interested in the exchange offered by an artwork and its encounter with the viewer, which he heightens in the illuminating allure of the flawlessly reflective surface of the gazing ball. The mirrored façade of the ball “constantly reminds viewers of their existence, of your existence…It’s visually so abstract that it always made me think of generosity.”i  His artistic agenda is characterized by unrelenting optimism, exhorting viewers to accept and embrace his buoyant iconography regardless of socially imposed criteria of good taste. The ebullient aesthetic exchange of Gazing Ball (Demeter) reminds us of the ultimate pleasures in succumbing to our most primal desire for beauty, a flattening of the poles of attraction that exemplifies Koons’s work.


    Giorgio de Chirico, The Poet and His Muse, 1921. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Image: The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome 2)
    Giorgio de Chirico, The Poet and His Muse, 1921. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Image: The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

     i Jeff Koons, quoted in Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, 2012, pp. 35-36.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Michael Altman Fine Art, In Pursuit of Timeless Quality, April 15 - May 20, 2016, p. 62 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Jeff Koons and Joachim Pissarro, Jeff Koons - The Gazing Ball or the Eye of Janus, Brussels, 2014, pp. 50, 61 (another example illustrated, p. 51 and on the back cover; detail illustrated, pp. 52-56)
      Almine Rech Gallery, Twenty Years 1997-2017, Paris, 2017, p. 91 (another example illustrated, p. 92)

Lot Offered with No Reserve


Lot offered with No Reserve

Gazing Ball (Demeter)

plaster and glass
48 3/4 x 34 1/8 x 40 1/2 in. (123.8 x 86.7 x 102.9 cm)
Executed in 2014, this work is an artist's proof aside from an edition of 3 plus 1 artist's proof.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $998,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021