Outdated, but perfect and unused vacuum cleaners with brand names of “Celebrity” and “Convertible” stand to attention or hang in fluorescent-lit boxes alongside advertising photographs, while intricate reflective stainless steel model railway engines and carriages encase American whiskey, giant eggs in a bowl have sexual innuendoes, basketballs floating in perfect balance are set against photographs of basketball players taking their place in American society, gigantic models of the artist’s son’s coloured play-doh have taken 20 years to create in aluminum, animals and cartoon figures which look like they are inflated balloons are cast in shiny smooth stainless steel that reflects and interacts with viewers moving around them while inflated lobsters do acrobatics.
The second exhibition “Now” in the varied and expansive gallery spaces of Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery provides a review of the American pop-artist Jeff Koon’s work over 35 years from his first exhibition “The New” in 1979 up to 2014, primarily selected from Hirst’s own collection with themes relating to consumerism, mass culture, advertising and beauty and the role of the artist in this modern consumerist society, while doing so with a colourful sense of fun – perhaps this is why Hirst admires his work?
Jeff Koons started his career as a commodities trader and his art now commands the highest prices of any living artist. How do the two connect? Richard Godwin interviewed him for the Evening Standard:
“My art deals with desire but consumerism is just one little aspect of it. I’m more involved in a philosophical dialogue about life, how to come out of Plato’s cave and experience a higher level of consciousness, how to understand the freedom that we have at any moment.”
“Within art, I feel like I’ve experienced a transcendence. I feel that art has allowed me to become a better human being. And once you’ve had these sensations, you automatically want to share it with others. You want to be as generous as possible. That’s the only desire I’ve had, to share that.”