Jeff Koons - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Paris; The Pisces Collection, Europe; The Aby Rosen Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Jeff Koons, 30 September – 29 November, 1997; Donaueschingen, Furstenberg Sammlungen, Ahead of the 21st Century: The Pisces Collection, June, 2002 – October, 2004

  • Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Jeff Koons, Paris,1997, n.p. (illustrated); U. Grosenick, ed., Ahead of the 21st Century: The Pisces Collection, Cologne, 2002, p. 109, no. 78 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jeff Koons' Encased series, of which the present lot, Encased- Five Rows, belongs, was conceived in 1983 as part of the artist's iconic and groundbreaking Equilibrium works.The monumental and powerful sculptures comprised of stacked sporting balls with their original cardboard packaging in glass display cases were fabricated during the following ten year period. Koons started with a single stacked row of five basketballs and a soccer ball, Encased- One Row,and culminated in the present lot comprised of 24 basketballs and 6 soccer balls. In total, Koons conceived and fabricated five unique works for the Encased series with the present lot, Encased- Five Rows, the zenith of Koons' endeavour.
    By the early 80s, Koons had an oeuvre that stretched several years and already included several series, Inflatable, Prenew,The New, however the Equilibrium works would draw critical acclaim and propel the artist's career. The present lot, along with the other four sculptures conceived in 1983 which comprise the Encased series, is the backbone, the blueprint for the celebrated Equilibrium works: the instantly recognizable framed Nike advertisement posters and cast bronze aqualungs, life boats, snorkels and basketballs floating inwater tanks, all of which were executed in 1985. With this body of work Jeff Koons not only continued his prior fascination with the conceptual genius of Marcel Duchamp and the streamlined Minimalist vocabulary but also injected into his oeuvre insightful pronouncements about the late capitalistic, consumer-oriented society and its underlying race and class dysfunctions.
    Seen collectively, the unaltered and framed Nike advertisement posters, the encased sports balls in glass vitrines and the floating basketballs in water tanks from Koons' Equilibrium series are metaphors for the upward social mobility available to African-Americans during the 1980s. On the other hand, the ironically flawed and therefore futile cast bronze life preserving devices, the aqualungs, lifeboats and snorkels, represent the uselessness of man's quest for eternal life. Jeff Koons says of his Equilibrium works, "The Nike posters were the Sirens - the great deceivers, saying ‘Go for it! I have achieved it. You can achieve it too!' And the bronzes, of course, were the tools for Equilibrium that would kill you if you used them. So the underlying theme, really, was that death is the ultimate state of being..." with a hint of self-reference and foreshadowing, the artist adds "what was paralleling this message was that white middle class kids have been using art the same way that other ethnic groups have been using basketball- for social mobility." (Jeff Koons asquoted in A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pp. 18-19)
    The history of 20th century art is clearly visible in Jeff Koons' early masterpiece, Encased- Five Rows. In a manner reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp's greatest ready made, Fountain, and of Andy Warhol's iconic appropriations of consumer culture, Brillo and Kellogg's, Jeff Koons' sports balls displayed in a glass vitrine within the confines of gallery walls are stripped of their functionality and given an abstract and surreal quality, forcing the viewer to question his belief in art. Indeed the manifestos of Surrealism and Dada are evident in this seminal work, where the everyday associations of the athletic equipment are hijacked to create new meanings through metaphors related to Koons' contemporary society."Duchamp would speak about art as something that happens between the idea and the realization of the idea. This is very vague, though. He doesn't really speak about what makes it good art. Whether it is the realization or whether you have to take the idea somewhere or you don't take it anywhere. I am really convinced that you cannot create art, it will be about the purity of the idea.The initial intuition is to make that gesture. There you don't get caught in aesthetics.You don't believe anything has a value other than that gesture." (Jeff Koons as quoted in T. Kellein, ed., Pictures: Jeff Koons1980-2002, New York, 2002, p. 18)


Encased – Five Rows (6 Spalding Scottie Pippen Basketballs, 6 Spalding Shaq Attaq Basketballs, 6 Wilson Supershot Basketballs, 6 Wilson Supershot Basketballs, 6 Franklin 6034 Soccerballs).

24 basketballs and 6 soccerballs with original cardboard packaging in glass and metal vitrine.
203.2 x 171.5 x 44.5 cm. (80 x 67 1/2 x 17 1/2 in).
This work is unique.

£1,800,000 - 2,200,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

12 Feb 2009, 7pm