Jeff Koons before Versailles

Jeff Koons Balloon Flower

Jeff Koons Balloon Flower

The exhibition opens today! And whoever dreamed up this concept had a certain flair for provocation. The French and international press is abuzz with talk of the controversy.

I, for one, am no fan of Jeff Koons‘s Made in Heaven series, featuring the artist involved in various sexual activities with his then wife, former porn actress turned politician La Cicciolina. Likewise I find Mr. Koons’s puppies-and-flowers resin sculptures sickeningly sweet. They make Disney look downright austere.

Yet lately I have discovered his balloon sculptures, like this blue Flower, and have to grant him a great deal of virtuosity in the treatment of polished metal. In any case, art collectors have issued their verdict: his work sells for millions of dollars.

Jeff Koons Puppy

Jeff Koons Puppy

It has met with success with the public as well. His giant Puppy live-plant sculpture in front of the Guggenheim in Bilbao endeared itself to the locals. My nursery in Woodland Hills, California, carries a line of similar, though more modest in scale, animal-themed wire structures.

But the Guggenheim is a modern building, dedicated to modern art, and Los Angeles gardens are less formal than those of the Sun King. Yet a similar wire-and-live-plant structure, titled Split Rocker, representing a rocking horse, will be displayed in the Orangerie Garden. How does this fit in Versailles?

Most of the works will be displayed inside the palace, in the Grands Appartments of the King and Queen, and the Hall of Mirrors. Jeff Koons, in an interview published (in French) by Le Figaro, explains that he did not visit Versailles before deciding on the placement of the sculptures within the rooms. He relied entirely on photographs and computer simulations.

Mr. Koons, who expresses admiration for Louis XIV’s artistic vision, also announces that his giant metal Lobster will hang from the ceiling of the Salon de Mars, temporarily replacing one of the chandeliers. This should be interesting, with the bright orange of the sculpture against the raspberry red backdrop of the room.

I was in any event planning a visit to Versailles one of these days, and will report on my impressions.

Palace of Versailles, until December 14, 2008.

Versailles Salon de Mars

Versailles Salon de Mars

Picture credits:
Ballon Flower by Markus
Puppy by Criesca

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21 Comments to “Jeff Koons before Versailles”

  1. Logo Design Sydney says:

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  2. Jeff Koons is an internationally recognized artist, as I pointed out, hardly a newcomer. Do I really sound frightened? I find his metallic balloon sculptures beautiful, and they interact with their environment in a fascinating way. That was particularly true at Versailles with the red heart (this was posted before the exhibition started).
    However, Koons’s resins are not to my taste, neither is his Cicciolina series. I dislike resin in general as a material. I find it dull, bland and opaque, qualities which no doubt endear it to other people. I didn’t “dis” this artist, but I reserve the right to say what I love, and don’t like, in his work. We are all entitled to our opinions, and the world would be a very dull place if we all agreed…

  3. Sophie says:

    Jeff Koons is amazing you people dont know what your talking about, the contrast of versailles classical features with the contemporary style of Koon’s art is the feature of the installations being there. there is an amazing amount of planning and practice that go into these works and he deserves international recognition, i support his creative style, dont dis him because its new and your frightened.

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    Thanks, Live Lobster! You saw this one, of course?

  5. live lobster says:

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  6. Good points…I would note that as someone who really doesn’t write on blogs much (in fact, this may be my first post), I don’t think the term “lurker” is very becoming to a non-posting reader. It’s not your fault really , but perhaps the blogosphere could come up with a better, non-creepy name for the 90% of us that enjoy reading the posts.

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Let’s make it a purely artistic one this time!

  8. Long live contemporary art King Jeff Koons at Versailles ! Is there going to be another revolution ?

  9. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you for sharing these pictures, Maija! I love the reflection of the marble flooring in the giant heart…

  10. Maija Lepore says:

    I was there last week and found the 2 extremes very interesting, but distracting. You can see the same photo of the room with one of Koons balloon things hanging from the ceiling:

  11. Catherine Delors says:

    Cinderella – The lobster does look atrocious in this setting. So do the Bear and Policeman. I won’t even comment on the egomaniac self-portraits. The Split Rocker too, with its black eye, seems incongruous in L’Orangerie.

    The thing I like best is the yellow metal flower in the courtyard. The reflection of the buildings must be interesting.

  12. Cinderella says:

    I am not, not, NOT a fan of this kind of art. That said, some of these shiny things do seem to fit in well at Versailles. Not the lobster!

  13. Catherine Delors says:

    Yes, Carlyn, the scale of the thing is a bit threatening…

  14. Carlyn says:

    Ya, I just don’t get the koons thing. It looks like a diseased bear cub to me.

  15. Catherine Delors says:

    Sue and Eva – I agree: puppy=cute, lobster=not cute, especially in this setting.
    And I also agree that is is disrespectful for visitors who come to discover the “classic” Versailles to clutter the place with Koons’s pieces. It definitely smacks of elitism.
    Sue – I will go there and post my own pictures and impressions!

  16. Eva says:

    Awwwww: it’s a cute puppy (although to me it looks more like a bear cub). But from his website, Koons is definitely not my style.

  17. Sue says:

    I saw some of Koons’ pieces at a LACMA exhibition in 2001 (was slightly amused with his stainless steel Rabbit but felt that the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, and Cy Twombly were infinitely more interesting), and a version of his Puppy at Rockefeller Center in 2000. My first impression of the Versailles exhibition was that despite the fact I’m not much of a Jeff Koons fan, it could work, rather in the way Sofia Coppola’s use of modern music in her film, Marie Antoinette, worked (at least for me it worked). But then I had a look at your link, Catherine, and saw Jeff Koons’ Lobster, hanging in the Mars Salon, and thought, umm … no. No way.

    I think if it was my only day to see Versailles, I would be plenty disappointed to find these pieces displayed in amongst Versaille’s treasures. They would just be “static” cluttering the “picture” for me.

    Should you get to see the exhibition Catherine, it will be very interesting to hear your thoughts.


  18. Catherine Delors says:

    Neither am I, Marg!

    In addition to the artistic aspect of the thing, I find the allegations of conflict of interest against the sponsors troubling.

  19. Marg says:

    Not sure on this at all!

  20. Catherine Delors says:

    Amanda – I too am trying to keep an open mind until I see the show for myself. All I can say is that I watched the comments of the first visitors on TV, and they don’t seem enthused either…

  21. Amanda says:

    I am not a Koons fan either. And hmmm, Koons in Versailles? I’ll try not to judge too harshly.

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