Jeff Koons - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Galerie Lehmann, Lausanne; Private collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Illeana Sonnabend Gallery, Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler; Lausanne, Galerie Lehmann, Made in Heaven, 23 November, 1991 – 6 May, 1992

  • Literature

    A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pp. 138 & 152 (illustrated);

    R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 133 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My work has always been about my own personal sexuality.” (Jeff Koons)
    In the 1980s Jeff Koons burst onto the contemporary art scene, becoming well known in a short span of time for his impressive sculptural works. Often embracing icons of popular culture and modeled after kitschy objects d’art more usually associated with touristy schlock shops, these works established the artist as an innovator casting a fresh eye upon the idea of the readymade and the role he, as an artist, had to play in the history of art.
    With the series of sculptures and photographs ‘Made in Heaven’ (1989-1992), Koons used his personal romantic and sexual relationship with model and then-wife Ilona Staller, known by her porn star name ‘La Cicciolina,’ as the focal point of an erotic collection of work. Shocking and confrontational at first glance, the highly-detailed artworks reveal themselves to be about much more than graphic sex and embody Koons’s philosophy of revealing everything about himself in order to create artwork that challenges society’s perception of art.
    Violet-Ice (Kama Sutra) is an embodiment of this aggressively open approach to creativity, an approach which Koons addresses often in interviews: “I try to be a truthful artist and I try to show a level of courage. I enjoy that. I’m a messenger.” (A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, New York, 1992, p. 32) The delicate glass sculpture was fabricated in Murano by world-renownedVenetian glassblowers in order to meet Koons’s impeccably high standards of craftsmanship. The sculpture shows the artist and his wife making love on a floating island of glass, La Cicciolina’s legs thrust vigorously into the air around Koons’s body, capturing the passion and ferocity of their coupling. The sculpture, a frothy confection in dainty violet glass, would be at home on an octogenarian’s bookshelf, a charming collectable trinket, were it not for the lusty subject matter. By combining a recognizable tchotchke, familiar to all in its banality, with a hard-core sexual display, Koons breathes new life into a tired object, reinvigorating it with his energy and humor.The impact of this ‘delightful fusion of the sacred and the profane’ through expert craftsmanship, transforming ‘kitsch into fine art’ is achieved through the work’s ‘surplus of meaning and feeling’, which invests the sculpture with ‘a powerful psychological impact.’
    (K. Johnson, ‘The Meaning, Beauty and Humor of Ordinary Things’ in The New York Times, April 23, 2004)
    Speaking about the role of sex in his artwork, Koons has said: “My art has always used sex as a direct communication line to the viewer… I had to go to the depths of my own sexuality, my own morality, to be able to remove fear, guilt and shame from myself. All of this has been removed for the viewer.” (R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, pp. 78 & 130). What one gets with Violet Ice is an intimate look into the personal-made-public process that has defined Koons’s career. Evocative of the central themes throughout his body of work, in particular interaction with and commentary upon the surrounding pop culture, Violet Ice, and the Made in Heaven series place Koons squarely within an historical context of eroticized art. As art critic Robert Rosenblum pointed out, Koons’s 1991 sculpture was precisely timed in its pushing of society’s boundaries and acceptance of highly sexualised artworks:
    [c1] Jeff Koons, Jeff and Ilona (Made in Heaven), 1989
    ‘Made in Heaven’ also became a revelation in terms of testing the limits of late 20th-century censorship. Until something is shown, no-one can guess what breach of propriety is permissible in a public art space. It was only in the 1980s that X-rated Picassos, featuring delirious copulations and every kind of indecent exposure, could be included comfortably in museum retrospectives and tour the world without protest; and it was in 1988 that the Brooklyn Museum offered in its Courbet exhibition the landmark debut of the artist’s notorious ‘Origin of the World’, a formerly secret painting for a private patron that offered a head-on disclosure of what lay between a woman’s thighs.…Looked at from this vantage point, Koons’s art also belongs to the collective history of the public acceptance, at least in the domain of art, of overt sex.” (The Jeff Koons Handbook, p. 26)
    With his truthful and playful depiction of sexuality and Eros, Koons is a successor to the major names in art history who have tackled the same subject matter, and at the same time, he is heir to masters of Pop art who referenced cultural touchstones in order to transform the everyday into works of art. “Just as Lichtenstein, in the early 1960s, compelled us to peer in amazement… at this alarmingly grotesque, but ubiquitous visual environment in which we were all living, like it or not, so too did Koons, two decades later, proclaim a new segment of popular bad taste as his own, rubbing our eyes in it and forcing us to look, really look, at this bizarre species of art that covers our planet and that pleases millions…. Koons often resurrects…the spirit of 1960s Pop, which enthusiastically embraced the visual pollutions of the crass world out there as if to say, ‘If you can’t lick it, join it.’” (R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, pp. 16 & 17)
    What makes Jeff Koons so powerful as an artist is that he manages to temper his humour with sincerity. The joke is never on the viewer, rather the viewer is welcomed into the world governed by Koons’s vivid imagination and invited to take a long look. Violet Ice may be titillating, but what defines it as such a memorable work of art is the way in which the sculpture stimulates the mind as well as the libido, recalling the history of art which it alludes to and draws inspiration from, and succeeding in Koons’s goal “to make the work very accessible to people” by “using sexuality as a tool to communicate.” (A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, New York, 1992, p. 35)  


Violet-Ice (Kama Sutra)

Coloured murano glass.
33 x 69 x 42 cm. (13 x 27 1/4 x 16 1/2 in).
This work is from an edition of three plus one Artist’s Proof.

£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for £1,252,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm