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>> Jeff Koons: Interview
>> A World Full of Multiples: Richard Prince
>> The Art of Shopping
>> Painting at a Rate of 150 Beats per Minute: Michel Majerus

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Door to Door
A Visit to Jeff Koons’ Studio

Jeff Koons' studio, New York
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.

Next to Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons is probably the epitome of the “American” artist: more than any of his contemporaries, Koons confronted the artistic currents of the 20th century with the commercial strategies of the advertising and entertainment industries. He achieved his international breakthrough in the eighties with works like his sculptures with Hoover vacuum cleaners, the “Stainless Steel” series, and the famous porcelain sculpture of Michael Jackson and his monkey “Bubbles.” In 2000, his painting series “ Easyfun Ethereal”, commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim, was on show in Berlin. Cheryl Kaplan visited Koons in his New York studio.

Jeff Koons in his studio, 2005
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005.
All rights reserved.

Walking into Jeff Koons’ studio is more like walking into a car factory or NASA. There are men in white suits hovering around objects, tag teams of painters on ladders, and paint swatches enough for neighborhoods of remodeled homes. Then there’s the clean room, where inflatable sculptures are polished and tended to behind clear plastic curtains and sealed doors. It’s Elizabeth Arden meets Vasari . Just a normal day for Jeff Koons and his 50 plus assistants. There’s a gentle, calm feeling throughout the studio despite the fact that orders are very clearly being given left and right. The Hulk and Popeye loom large. Nearby, a shelf is stuffed with beach toys and patterns; a model for a new train sculpture is also on view, a large commission for a European institution. The natural light in the studio feels like it’s dreamed up. Jeff gives me the cook’s tour.

Jeff Koons' Studio, New York, 2005
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.

Cheryl Kaplan: The production values in your work are always very high. Why is "excellence," a trademark of American production, so important to you?

Jeff Koons: The viewer has to trust the object. When I was younger, we’d go to a foundry and they never paid the same attention to the bottom as the front. I could never understand that. I’d lose trust. An object is an abstract thought that becomes a life energy.

So when an object doesn’t have any flaws...’s in a heightened state.

The Japanese have that sense of the meticulous, of giving the commodity a unique history.

Order and meticulousness are about caring. Art is always about the viewer. In America, people are happy without aesthetic control.

Jeff Koons, Sandwiches, from the series " Easyfun-Ethereal", 2000
Deutsche Bank Collection, ©Jeff Koons

The production values associated with America in the late 50s and 60s have shifted.

That’s happened for physical art, but in the high-tech world, we’re incredible. I believe in using craft to embed as much power into an object or image as possible. I don’t believe in craft for craft’s sake, it has to be able to heighten the energy. What’s so wonderful about Warhol’s work is the economy of the gesture.

How do you organize your studio? Do you meet regularly with everyone?

No, but I look into every department. It’s my responsibility to direct, educate, and inform everybody. If I print something out on my printer, I want it reproduced like it is. It’s showing them how to look closely.

Koons' assistants in the studio, 2005
Courtesy Cheryl Kaplan ©Copyright Cheryl Kaplan 2005. All rights reserved.

Why did Greg Gorman’s photo of David Bowie in a gold suit strike you so strongly?

Because of the surface tension I felt through that photograph. I remember thinking: if you took a hammer it would shatter, the surface was so tight. I’ve always had such respect for Bowie. He’s able to bring us into contact with real power.

You’ve said that "if Spalding came to me and asked if I’d work on an ad campaign, I’d love that." Where is the border between what’s commercial and what’s art?

Jeff Koons Three Ball 50/50 Tank, 1985, ©Jeff Koons

When I first got involved with ready-made objects, I liked things to act like advertisements for my work. If you’d see a basketball or a vacuum cleaner, you’d think of my work. I love advertising, but art isn’t tied to any other influence other than the artist’s agenda.

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