Special Interview With JEFF KOONS
The desire to participate
Jeff Koons dialoguing with Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar about art, life and generosity.
Jeff Koons, one of the most successful artists in the world, a ‘Rock Star’ of the contemporary art. He is a former Wall Street commodities trader who left the financial world to pursue his dream of becoming an artist, He is one of the most influential artists with fans like Lady Gaga.
His art is unique and has featured balloon dogs, lobsters, Pink swans and even cracked eggs. Koons’ stainless steel sculpture, Balloon Dog (Orange), was sold at an auction for $58.4m, turning him into the most expensive living artist of all time.
Jeff Koons talks to Art Market Magazine to discuss his work, his future and about generosity.
It is Friday afternoon in New York, Friday evening in Kiryat Tivon. I can hear the owls hooting outside and the jackals howling in the nearby valley, making the dogs go crazy with their barks. Out of my window, the guava tree seems a center stage for the bats. Across continents, a meeting takes place and I am very excited to be speaking to Jeff Koons, one of the most influential artists living today. As we deepen our conversation, I find myself inspired by his clarity of vision and grounded curiosity. Jeff generously shares his beliefs and memories, horizon and motivation, and Art Market magazine and I are delighted to share this interview with you now.
Asaf: Hello Jeff, Thank you for the interview.
So, after all these years of creating – are you still hungry?
Jeff: Yes, I am still very hungry. What I’ve always enjoyed about art is that it gives me an opportunity to become, it lets everybody become. That‘s the beautiful thing, to continue to increase your parameters as an individual, and at the same time then to share that with the community around you. More than ever, I want to continue to exercise the freedom as a human being to reach the highest state of enlightenment possible, to exercise that freedom.
Asaf: You are speaking in spiritual terms.
Jeff: I am speaking in transcendent terms, but spiritual in that to enjoy life and reach a potential, to experience a vastness and an enjoyment to its highest level, to enjoy abstraction, and to enjoy an understanding of the situation that one’s placed in to its highest level of consciousness and understanding.
Asaf: Your outlook of the artist’s position is very playful, and soulful.
Jeff: What I’ve always tried to do is to make work that automatically is inclusive, and that it shows that nobody has to bring anything to the table other than themselves at that moment, and that everything is about this moment forward. I am interested in making no judgments, that there is complete acceptance, there is no discrimination, and that everything is in play, because as soon as you make judgments, you discriminate and you remove things from being possible to the interacting between your ideas, or within the possibilities of incorporating them. I believe that the artistic act is one that takes you from self-acceptance to the acceptance of others. And once you learn to accept yourself you enjoy finding interest in things outside of yourself.
Asaf: But how do you manage to maintain such edge of curiosity and openness when you have become an icon, expected to answer to the iconic image of Jeff Koons?
Jeff: I keep everything in play. So when I walk down the street, I keep every image, every object, everything I try to look at as interesting, and as a possibility to be part of a dialogue, to make connections with other things or to function in some aspect of a polarity to something else. And I find this by just embracing life – I have a family, I have a total of eight children, I love my family life. I love the idea of exploring the world and sharing that opportunity with family and community, the people around you. For me, it is all about trying to reach higher possibilities. When you practice that, you automatically want to share that with the community around you.
Asaf: It sounds that you are phrasing art as a practice of expansion of consciousness.
Jeff: I remember my first day of art school, and the first lesson in art history. When my teacher brought up an image of Manet, and started speaking about the painting, it was Olympia, and started to speak about the different symbolism taking place and the different connections within 19th century Parisian society, I realized that art so effortlessly connects you to all the other human disciplines. It connects us to psychology, philosophy, sociology, physics, aesthetics – all the human disciplines, so effortlessly. And I felt so lucky that I was involved or had interest in an activity, that up to that moment, I had no concept of what the power of this activity could be, or where it could lead me. And the sense of expansion – that I could be involved and have such a vast life through this activity – hit me at that moment and I have continued to enjoy that expansion and the pleasure of this involvement in all the human disciplines through this central core of art.
Asaf: Can you speak about the dialogue between the aesthetic and the communicative?
Jeff: I have always enjoyed, when I came into contact with personal iconography, that art could make you feel a certain way. That if you open yourself up to the aesthetic, you can receive certain sensations from art, and those sensations are then the foundation for the creation for ideas. Because feelings create ideas; and this is the journey that I’ve enjoyed, because I always wanted to participate, I wanted to be part of my generation and to have a dialogue within the world. I enjoyed the dialogues, I enjoyed the investigations of so many other people in different areas of art, but to be able to participate and have an association, a connection with people like Dali, Picabia, Duchamp, Manet, Courbet, all the way back, Leonardo, Praxiteles – everybody. It is that joy of giving it up and finding something greater outside the self. This type of pleasure comes from the interaction of observing art and the contemplation of it, which can be both physical and intellectual.
Installation views from:
Jeff Koons New Paintings and Sculpture
Gagosian Gallery, 555 W 24th Street,
New York, NY 10011
© Jeff Koons. Photography by Robert McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
Gazing Ball (Turner Ancient Rome), 2015. Oil on canvas, glass, and aluminum
54 1/2 x 73 x 14 3/4 inches
138.4 x 185.4 x 37.5 cm (unframed)
© Jeff Koons. Photography by Tom Powel Imaging. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.