Jeff Koons: A Retrospective Review

The sculptural work of  Jeff Koons has the tendency to raise the status of everyday objects, including the likes of lifejackets, lifeboats and toys such as train sets. His work can be described as comical, with the enlargement of the size of pieces such as “Balloon Dog (Yellow)”, 1994-2000. Like the work of Claus Oldenburg, these large scale sculptures have an implied narrative, largely thanks to the placement and position of the work. Oldenberg’s sculptures take on an anthropomorphic quality, this is the same with Koons’s work in particular his larger sculptures like “BalloonDog”. The sculptures represent the everyday blown into a seen proportions, and as a result are easily relatable.

It is interesting how the scale of his work changes their perception. With “Balloon Dog” when placed in the gallery, it  dominates the space, reflecting the surrounding work and viewers. However when out in the open it takes  on a whole new meaning, the surrounding buildings and wildlife  becomes part of the pieces, so becoming vast with no boundaries. In contrast to these pieces, his smaller work like his inflatable flower series, presented just slightly raised from the floor, giving the viewer the sense of presiding over the work, looking down on it. This gives the impression of a scene being laid out before you, also with a narrative element.  It  is harder to become immersed in the work, you feel separate from the work, as if you are viewing artefacts  from a museum.


Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Yellow), (1994–2000)

His cast bronze pieces, including “Lifeboats” (1985), have a surreal and almost fake nature to them, as if they are simply objects that have been spray painted. The complex and detailed cast seems to be too real and accurate, not possible. The only thing that alerts you to the fact that they are indeed casts is the artist label attributed to them. And even then you are not convinced. You want to reach out and touch the work to confirm your belief that it is fake. You expect it  to be an illusion, however as it is in a gallery you can not touch it so you have no way of knowing. The casting of  such an object seems like a pointless action, however the subject matter makes it more interesting, casting flotation devices, giving them weight  and making them completely useless for their primary function. Koons picks his subject matters carefully, his work “I Could Go For Some Gordon’s” 1986, consists  of a silver cast  toy train set, filled with Gordon’s Gin. The work raises important questions about the class system and society, the train represents the middle class, and the consumers wish to own. It becomes a pointless object to own, only for want of owning as there is no function or purpose. Again this work has the element of implied artificiality, which can not  be verified. We are told the train is filled with gin but we have no way of proving this, we tend to believe it is true as it is on the artist label but with no outward proof we become naturally suspicious.


Jeff Koons, Lifeboat, 1985  

Koons’s work incorporates many ideas, and themes throughout the years. He uses a variety of materials ranging from cheap pound shop like items to the more expensive silver and bronze. The whole experience of the exhibition was vey engaging spanning over the many floors of the gallery showing the progression of his work in chronological order.

For a full catalogue of the exhibition you can visit the Whitney’s website:


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