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

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  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Collection Gerald S. Elliott, Chicago

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Luxury and Degradation, July – August, 1986 (another example exhibited); New York, International with Monument Gallery, Luxury and Degradation, July – 12 October, 1986; The Art Institute of Chicago, Affinities and Intuitions: The Gerald S. Elliott Collection of Contemporary Art, 22 May – 3 July, 1990; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 10 December, 1992 – February, 1993 and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 10 July – 3 October, 1993, Jeff Koons; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 28 November, 1992 – 3 January, 1993; Aarhus Kunstmuseum, 22 January – 28 February, 1993; and Staatsgalerie Stattgart, 12 March – 18 April, 1993, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    A. Jones, ‘Jeff Koons ‘Et qui libre ?’ in Galeries Magazine, Boulogne, October – November, 1986, p. 96 (illustrated) ; M.A. Staniszewski, ‘Jeff Koons’ in Flash Art, Milan, November – December, 1988, pp. 113-114; T. Dreher, ‘Jeff Koons Objekt-Bilder’ in Artefactum, January – February 1989, p. 8 (illustrated); The Art Institute of Chicago, Affinities and Intuitions: The Gerald S. Elliott Collection of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1990, p. 280, no. 74 (illustrated); A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p.76, no. 12 (illustrated); R. Rosenblum, ed., The Jeff Koons Handbook, London/New York, 1992, pp. 68-69 (illustrated); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Walker Art Center, eds., Jeff Koons, San Francisco, 1992, p.70, no. 25 (illustrated); J. Erik Sorensen and A. Kold, eds., Jeff Koons, Aarhus, 1993, pp. 34-35; T. Kellein, ed., Pictures Jeff Koons 1980-2002, New York, 2002,

    p. 47 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    For the 1986 famed exhibition Luxury and Degradation, Jeff Koons set out to make history in the art world. Following on the critically-acclaimed footsteps of his 1985 Equilibrium exhibit the year before, Koons’ new process investigated yet another aspect of contemporary society with his characteristic wit and resonance. Showcased in both Los Angeles and NewYork, Luxury and Degradation displayed life-size replicas of liquor advertisements and hand-made fabrications of alcohol-derived accoutrements.The combination sought to dazzle and belittle the very structures underlying the commodity of alcohol and its consumptive, corruptive forces.The present lot, I Could Go for Something Gordon’s, a highlight from the show, displays Koons’ knack for recapturing mass-appeal in an attempt to expose the artifice behind advertising slogans and campaigns. It highlights not only Koons’ grand artistic aims of that decade, but also the successful commercialization efforts gaining ground from the strength of the 1980s stock market.

    Luxury and Degradation (cf. figure 1) was ultimately one of the most important and ambitious exhibitions Koons produced. The artist counterposes that which causes pleasure, through its comfortable indulgence, with dereliction of a moral and behavioral code, debasing and corrupting ones rank or character. As the artist describes, his show undertook the following themes from contemporary society: “I paralleled the alcoholic, the desire for alcohol, and the dependence on alcohol as an underlying debasement and degradation…The show was really telling people not to pursue luxury and to avoid all the dangers of degradation,” (Jeff Koons, taken fromT. Kellein, ed., Pictures Jeff Koons 1980-2002, NewYork, 2002, p. 21).

    Never one to shy away from criticizing contemporary society, Koons’ Luxury and Degradation utilizes media and industry to achieve his artistic aims. As Robert Rosenblum describes, “His wish to communicate with as wide an audience as possible and his belief that the way to do it now is through the media, ‘through TV and advertising, through the film and entertainment industries’ may sound disarmingly crass, but its combination of dumb innocence and shrewd calculation is clearly, for an artist born in the 1950s and emerging in the climate of the 1980s, less affectation than just plain honesty and commonsense for someone pursuing a career in the arts, including those high-minded art critics who are ever eager to expand their own fame and power through the media but who sneer aristocratically at Koons for doing the same thing,”

    (R. Rosenblum, “Notes on Jeff Koons”, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London/New York, 1992, p. 12).

    Of all the liquor advertisements included in the exhibit, I Could Go for Something Gordon’s showcases a particularly middle-class system of values, underscoring a specific level of abstraction selected by the artist in its appropriation. As the artist describes, “Coming from these wombs and the masculine color of Equilibrium, all these internal areas, Luxury and Degradation is much more sociological. I just rode the subways here in NewYork. And I would go from one economic area, from Harlem, to the other, Grand Central Station. I got the whole spectrum of advertising.You deal with the lowest economic base to the highest level. I realized how the level of visual abstraction is changing. The more money came into play, the more abstract. It was like they were using abstraction to debase you, because they always want to debase you. You are taking these people into the ghetto and trying to sell them booze or trying to show aggression,” (Jeff Koons, taken fromT. Kellein, ed., Pictures Jeff Koons 1980-2002, New York, 2002, p. 21).

    The tanned models are breathlessly attractive and engage in the leisure activity of painting by the seaside, an all-American utopia of classical Newport-era maxims. The sandy beach, cool colours, idealised models, and crystal glass refreshed with Gordon’s gin and ice all express a distinctively upper middle-class stereotype. The image Koons distills for his viewer is one of overindulgence and exaggerated creature comfort. The values most present in this work indicate an expressive longing for material comforts and the constant striving to social upward mobility. “In the liquor advertisements, the purpose was not so much to direct the viewer as to define social class structure…The public is being deceived in these advertisements on different levels of thought, because they are educated in abstraction and luxury on different levels of income,” (Jeff Koons, taken from R. Rosenblum, ed., The Jeff Koons Handbook, London/New York, 1992, p. 72).

    What is more, Koons’ selection of these eye-catching, splendid liquor advertisements parallels the famous Marlboro series captured by fellow American artist Richard Prince. In the celebrated Marlboro series (cf. figure 2), Richard Prince photographs the Marlboro campaign’s cigarette ads and in so doing highlights the very facets of American society and consumerism that drive us to covet this well-documented and appointed male archetype.Through the same effect and means of expression, the liquor advertisements selected by Koons expose facets of the American dream at once obvious but all the while startling in their reflection of our own misgivings.

    In an attempt to contextualise works such as I Could Go for Something Gordon’s within a larger spectrum of Koon’s artwork, it becomes clear that he owes much in the way of artistic heritage to the Duchampian method of the ready-made. But he is also a direct descendant of American Pop, having grown up on the footsteps of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist, all famed for appropriating advertisements and America’s commercial hegemony in their artwork in the spirit of the times. “Koons often resurrects, as do many artists of his generation, the spirit of the 1960s Pop, which enthusiastically embraced the visual pollution of the crass world out there as if to say, ‘If you can’t lick it, join it.’ Of course by the 1980s this battle had already been won, and Koons and his contemporaries, unlike Warhol and his, no longer had to fight their way through the elitist assumptions of abstract art and could stand comfortably in the triumphs of a now venerable tradition of wallowing in, rather than shielding themselves from, the facts of daily life in a civilization bombarded by commercial come-ons. So it is, for example, that Koon’s five-foot wide clones of liquor ads update in a less rebellious and ironic way Rosenquist’s innovative recreations, in the 1960s, of the overscaled, textureless consumer bait dangled on American billboards.” (ibid, p. 18).

    Jeff Koons career is noteworthy not the least of which for his ability to fuse art, publicity and commercial success to his highly articulated aims. As he says, “Art can, and should, be used to stimulate social mobility. I envisage the formation of a total society where every citizen will be of blue blood. In such a society the individual will exist in a state of entropy, or rest, and will inhabit an environment decorated with object art that is beyond critical dialogue,” (ibid, p. 32). In the end, I Could Go for Something Gordon’s lies within Koon’s direct critique of the pursuit of luxury and the dangerous misconceptions lying nascent within advertising and consumerism.


I Could Go for Something Gordon’s

inks on canvas in two parts.
Overall: 115 x 226.6 cm (45 1/4 x 89 1/4 in).

This work is from an edition of two plus one artist’s proof.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £1,028,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm