Jeff Koons - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection
    Phillips, New York, Contemporary Art Sale, 13 May 2010, lot 112
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Luxury and Degradation, 1986 (another example exhibited)
    Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, Word As Image: American Art, 1960 - 1990, 1990 (another example exhibited)
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, 10 December 1992 – 3 October 1993, cat. no. 30, pl. 29, illustrated in colour(another example exhibited)

    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Denmark, Aarhus Kunstmuseum and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, 28 November 1992 – 3 January 1993 (Amsterdam) 22 January – 28 February (Denmark), 12 March – 18 April 1993 (Stuttgart) (another example exhibited)
    London, Gagosian Gallery, Pop Art is, 27 September – 10 November 2007, cat. no. 100, illustrated in colour (AP exhibited)

    Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, 31 May - 21 September 2008 (another example exhibited)
    Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Jeff Koons: The Painter, 20 June - 23 September 2012 (another example exhibited)
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Jeff Koons, A Retrospective, 27 June - 19 October 2014, will travel to Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne (26 November 2014 - 27 April 2015), Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (5 June - 27 September 2015), (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    J.C. Ammann, 'Der Fall Jeff Koons/Jeff Koons: Case Study,' Parkett, no. 19, March 1989, p. 61
    J. Koons and R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, pp. 73, 158 (illustrated)
    Angelika Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, fig. 22, p. 85, (illustrated in colour)
    Barry Hoffman, The Fine Art of Advertising, New York, 2002, p 135 (illustrated in colour)
    Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 2008, p. 214, (illustrated in colour)
    Jeff Koons, A Retrospective, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2014, pl. 41, p. 83 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    As a keen observer of modern culture, no one explores and recontextualises cultural tropes like Koons. From his exploration of the Duchampian readymade in 1979’s the Pre-New, which would remain a staple of his work for the next 30 years, to his courageous challenges to perceptions of artistic etiquette in his Made in Heaven and Puppy series, Koons continually finds ways to create a dialogue with the viewer while maintaining a staggering degree of innovation in his art. Few artists possess this sensational gift for reliably monumental work, and Koons has achieved his stature through the marvelous skewering of our existing cultural norms. In Luxury and Degradation, his landmark 1986 series that took as its subject liquor advertisements and promotional materials, he employed appropriation as his most lethal tactic, presenting us with Stay in Tonight, 1986, a work that embodies his overarching project, integrating seduction, desire, material greed, and vicarious living all within the space of a single canvas.

    As with much of Koons's work, Stay in Tonight is a study in the differences between high art and low art. The liquor advertisement that it draws from would certainly be considered an excellent piece of formal advertising, but, as with his contemporary Richard Prince’s use of cigarette advertisement appropriations, it is Koons’s choice to elevate the piece that allows it to stand on its own. This technique differs somewhat from Koons's experiments with the readymade—the present lot is once divorced from its original context, blown up to fit the space of a canvas. It is almost a hybrid—a piece of commercial advertising set intentionally upon canvas, historically reserved only for artistic work.

    The series itself was a push into the realm of morality for Koons, whose previous work had dealt mostly with style and texture. But the aims of Luxury and Degradation was social in scope: the centering of alcohol as a cultural and personal necessity had always eclipsed social hierarchy in practice, but Koons was keyed into the fact that advertising for such products often aimed itself at particular demographics—and firms had fine-tuned their methods of advertising and distribution to a degree that the social strata targeted were immediately discernible in their allusions to vicarious wealth and artificial luxury. Koons found an opportunity to highlight the multiple vehicles of commercial attacks on inherent human dignity:

    ‘In this series, I was telling people not to give up their economic power-- that this pursuit of luxury was a form of degradation and not to get debased by it but to maintain their economic power. I was really telling people to try to protect themselves from debasement.’(D. Sylvester, Interviews with American Artists, London, 2002, p. 340)

    The debasement in question was less the actual purchase of the products that the advertisements promoted, and more the will of the proletariat to be seduced by the method of advertising. As with other works in his series, Koons utilises the palette of faux-luxury in the present lot, falling in line with his use of stainless steel to imitate both silver and platinum in his other pieces, most notably his Jim Beam J.B. Turner Train, 1986. The psychological concept of “degradation” is both a process for the consumer and for the method of advertising, both of which fall prey to object of imitation as opposed to authenticity. The degradation of the liquor advertisement of Stay in Tonight is located in its colouring, a necessary material pretense if it is to achieve its objective of consumer seduction and consequent product sales. The debasement of the consumer is a much more costly process, as the buyer allows himself to buy into the mythology of the advertisement, bringing himself to desire the social status and air of luxury that the spot promises him.

    But Koons is quick to point out that the reason the ads themselves are so effective in turning a prospective consumer into an active consumer is their excellent use of visual seduction, which in the present lot, begins with its overall tone and monochromatic use of gold colouring. Koons's canvas sprawls out far larger than the original ad, its height nearly six feet, matching the average height of its targeted consumer. Employing ink-based paint on canvas, Koons chooses to employ the common tools of the painter rather than those of the ad man, literalising our willingness to observe the ad itself as a piece of art worthy of our consideration.

    The tone in question is clearly the star in Stay in Tonight. The deep amber hue runs through different shades and degrees of saturation throughout the work, yet it is marvelously bold and constant in its steady application of tone. From the top, the light, straw-coloured liquid seems to be in motion, travelling from one side of the canvas to the other as only a rich and viscous fluid can. But as we dive deeper into the glass, we find the texture and tone of the liqueur morph into a heightened wave, travelling downward into the mouth of a waiting consumer, promising aristocratic status once it hits its intended target. Below, Koons gives us a seductive consistency of shade, hinting at many more gulps to come. The golden liquid might as well have gone through an alchemical process as it travels toward the mouth of the consumer, the consummate pursuit of such a technique finally perfected in the guise of a tasty aperitif.

    Koons's choice to leave each advertisement perfectly intact allows us to witness the brilliant use of font, branding, and positioning of text, certainly risky whenever such a flawless piece of visual advertising is present. Positioned midway down the vertical, yet somewhat lethargically hanging off the left side of the canvas, ‘Stay in tonight.’ is so plainly stated that it conjures a confidence we could only dream of. The addition of a period at the end of such a seductive command signals, in essence, the end of the argument. Koons highlights this marvelous facet of casual advertising, as if the hand of a seductress was working its way down the spine of the consumer. Below, the use of the Frangelico label is less invasive as it is an organically integrated piece of the advertisement—the quintessential colour of the liqueur is idealised in branding, surrounding the archaic text as if the word itself is swimming in a halo of religiously luxurious product. The Germanic style font furthers the mythology of the Frangelico brand, giving it a faux-pedigree of historical tradition, the wonders of the liquid supposedly filling the ancient texts of kings and nobles alike. But, in lending the label itself an air of aristocratic importance, Frangelico succeeds in degrading the consumer to an even greater level, as the buyer allows himself to believe a completely and overtly artificial piece of folklore.

    This maddening perfectionism on the part of Frangelico to encourage the false history of their own label is captured pixel for pixel by Koons, who draws us in with the massive scale of his painting. This life size representation of the ad magnifies the tendency of the observer to live vicariously through the spot, producing an immersive experience of egotism and desire. This precoccupation with the concept of visual seduction and immersion has a great many historical precedents, but it would be remiss not to mention the mood-inducing work of Ed Ruscha, for whom the landscapes of America and California promised a similar version of the American dream. In paintings such as The Act of Letting a Person Into Your Home, 1983, Ruscha employs the same monochromatic means as Koons in order to seduce the viewer, then confronts us with textual stimuli to aggrandise the impact of his mood-inducing hue. Koons works in a similar vein, except, in maintaining the original text of the advertisement, he highlights the push toward the artificial in the advertisement as opposed to Ruscha’s movement toward intellectual dissonance.

    Not only is the golden liquid a promise of status and satisfaction, but also of sexual enticement: it is a small jump from the rolling shapes of the liquid to the more intimate parts of the human body. But perhaps differentiating between social status and sexual stimulation is a futile enterprise in this regard, as most advertising historically seeks to excite both the greed and the erotic inclinations of its demographic. The ultimate goal of the company, and highlighted here by Koons, is nothing less activate the consumer’s complete and utter assumption of the lifestyle inherent simply by participating—which, in this case, equates to the purchase and consumption of alcohol.

    Koons would revisit this trope in many of his later works, many in different mediums. The use of steel to imitate silver, gold, and, ultimately a variety of seductive materials was the basis for Koons’s Celebration series started 1994, which introduced, among many other essential sculptures, his Balloon Dogs. Yet in the present lot, we witness the genesis of obsession with the seductive powers of both media and advertising—a humble and fascinatingly idealistic beginning.

    In explaining his work in Luxury and Degradation, Koons seeks to make public that which is an inherent piece of sinisterism on the part of corporate advertising: ‘In the liquor advertisements, the purpose was not so much to direct the viewer as to define social class structure. For example, the Frangelico ads define a $45,000 and up income, and are more concerned with being lost in one’s own thought patterns. 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 in J. Koons and R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 72)

    The present lot is Jeff Koons's incisive exploration into the marriage of visual stimuli and reaction, eternally manipulated for the movement of product. But Stay in Tonight is also an abstraction in and of itself. In the end, Koons triumphs—he manages to create a painting that would test the limits of both seduction and provocation—a breathtaking prelude for the rest of his career.


Stay in Tonight

oil inks on canvas
175.3 x 122.5 cm (69 x 48 1/4 in.)
This work is the artist’s proof from an edition of 2 plus 1 artist’s proof and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £386,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm