On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale. This interest may include guaranteeing a minimum price to the consignor of property or making an advance to the consignor which is secured solely by consigned property. Such property is offered subject to a reserve. This is such a lot.
Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1992
The fact that in the Nineteenth century many Native American Indians feared having their photograph taken because they believed that the resultant image would in some way steal their soul has become a well-known fable of the modern age. The idea that one's inner being or "Self" could in some way be affected or indeed altered by an apparently arbitrary image of outward appearance seems patently absurd; yet it is one that has persisted throughout history. Most of the world's great religions have warned strongly against the dangers of image-making arguing that it leads inexorably to idolatry and the vanity of self-love. The Ancient Greek myth of Narcissus obsessing over his own reflection is probably the best known, but by no means the only, parable about the dangers of the projected image.
The role of the artist as a manufacturer of images is of course central in this respect and this is one of the reasons why, in many tribal cultures the role of the image-maker is inseparable from other sacred and shamanic duties. At the root of these beliefs is both a fascination with and an inherent distrust of the image and of pictorial or visual reality as a complete or comprehensive conveyer of truth and meaning. Nowhere is the blurring of the notions of self and identity, and of image and reality better or more fully expressed than in the practice of self-portraiture. From the moment ancient man first pressed his painted hand to the cave wall and left behind its print the ambiguity surrounding such concepts has been central to the practice of nearly all art and image making.
Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons are two modern native Americans who in the late Twentieth century have used the somewhat out-dated medium of the self-portrait to explore this area with reference to the ambiguities of modern life. Drawing from Marcel Duchamp's demonstration of the absence of a division between art and life, both artists have merged their self-image and identity with that of their art to an extent where each has become indistinguishable from the other. "If you want to know about Andy Warhol then just look at the surface of my pictures, my movies and me and there I am, there's nothing in between", Warhol famously said. Koons has expressed a similar sentiment declaring, "I have no perception of Jeff Koons, absolutely not. Your perception of Jeff Koons is probably much more than mine because to me I am nonexistent."
All of Koons and Warhol's work can to some extent be considered a form of self-portraiture but it is perhaps in their many self-portraits themselves that the questioning essence of their art is most poignantly revealed. Throughout his career Warhol presented himself as an artifice --a disguised bewigged and spectral character, the 'Shadow'-- rendered through the equally artificial flat and dimensionless planes and cosmetic colors of his silk-screened photographic images. It is the self-portrait as manifesto and none are more powerful or haunting than the ones he made shortly before his death in 1986 (see lot 3). Inspired by Warhol, Koons has taken the idea further, adopting the role of art salesman and reintegrating his self-image into the media world in his numerous magazine ads and with his "Made in Heaven" series, where the overtly narcissistic kitsch of his love-making with his equally artificial wife reinforces the ambiguity between the artist's life and work (see lots 8, 60 and 61). Are these portraits of Koons' immersion of self into the vacancy of the public image modern tales of Narcissus and a critique of the vanity and emptiness of our image-laden Contemporary culture? Koons has said, "The contradictions in my personality run deep. In part, I am a sham, a con man. But I also have a sense of integrity that I hope comes through in my work."
Property of a Private European Collector
A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, p. 141 and 155, no. 38 (another example illustrated in color)
J. Koons, The Jeff Koons Handbook, New York 1992, p. 121 (another example illustrated in color and on the front cover).
New York, Sonnabend Gallery and Cologne, Max Hetzler Galerie, Made in Heaven, November-December 1991 (another example exhibited).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Aarhus Kunstmuseum and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons, March 1993, p. 72, pl. 52 (illustrated in color).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, December-October 1993, p. 132, no. 63, pl. 52 (illustrated in color, another example exhibited).
Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, The Age of Modernism-Art in the 20th Century, 1997.
Aspen Art Museum, Warhol, Koons, Hirst; Cult and Culture, August-September 2001, n.p., pl. 19 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Jeff Koons, June-September 2003, pp. 104-105 (illustrated in color; another example exhibited).