Jeff Koons (B. 1955)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Supreme Egoistes 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
Jeff Koons (B. 1955)

Self-Portrait

Details
Jeff Koons (B. 1955)
Self-Portrait
numbered '2' (on the top of the base)
white marble in two parts
37½ x 20½ x 14½ in. (95.3 x 52.1 x 37.4 cm.)
Executed in 1991. This work is number two from an edition of three with one artist's proof.
Provenance
Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1992
Literature
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).
Exhibited
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).
Special notice

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.

Lot Essay

Self-Portrait of 1991 is the iconic and self-adulatory centrepiece of Koons' infamous Made in Heaven series. This series, which consisted of a sugary confection of overtly narcissistic and kitsch images of the artist and his new wife, the illustrious pornstar and member of the Italian parliament Ilona "La Cicciolina" Staller, making "heavenly" and explicit love, was intended to mark Koons' apotheosis as both artist and man. "Ilona and I were born for each other" Koons declared, "She's a media woman. I'm a media man. We are the contemporary Adam and Eve. I believe totally that I'm in the realm of the spiritual, now, with Ilona. Through our union, we're aligned once again with nature. I mean we've become God. That's the bottom line-- we've become God." (The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p.140)

Executed in marble--the medium used to commemorate the similar apotheoses of Roman emperors--this bust, Koons' first major Self-Portrait, commemorates the artist's new status as a god, seemingly born or rising from a kryptonite-like amalgam of crystals, his eyes closed in apparent contemplation of his own state of perfection. "Sex with love is a higher state", Koons asserted referring to the elevatory nature of his Made in Heaven series, "It's an objective state, in which one loves and enters the eternal, and I believe that's what I showed people." (Jeff Koons, Angelika Muthesius, Cologne 1992, p. 156) Similarly, when asked what he was thinking about at the time the model for this self-portrait bust was made, Koons answered that he was imagining "anal sex with Ilona."

Through a conscious and knowing use of seductive, sensual imagery and means and the kitsch, romantic and sexual subject matter of flowers and of physical desire fulfilled, Koons presented in Made in Heaven a variety of images that serve as a metaphor for self-development and the attainment of ones's dreams. For Koons the series was a way of 'presenting the idea of the chameleon--that if one emulates what one wants to be one can become that,' he explained. In his Self-Portrait he merges his own self image with that of the art god image he had previously projected to the media and in doing so announces the birth of a higher man. This is a sacred and self-determining figure who has shed his former skin to be born again untainted by the mores of modern society--pure and heavenly creature. 'I went through moral conflict.' Koons declared, 'I could not sleep for a long time in the preparation of my new work. I had to go to the depths of my own sexuality, my own morality, to be able to remove fear, guilt and shame from myself. All of this has been removed for the viewer. So when the viewer sees it, they are in the realm of the Sacred Heart of Jesus' (The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 130).

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