Flawless facets and delicate flora set in a grandiose frame defines Teddy Bear Orange as one of the pre-eminent wall pieces from the Banality series of 1988-1989. Here Jeff Koons boldly sought to expose the power that art yields in affirming or demoting the values of a socio-economic class. Throughout this period, the barometer of Koons' art was how successfully the work captures the notion of societal upward mobility, of aspirational living. In his own biography, Koons recalls regular vacations with his family, of his father trading up houses and membership to country clubs. Like the boundaries of what is reflected in his mirrors, Koonsi observations and subsequent focus is predicted by the borders that delineate the middle from the lower and upper classes; it is built upon the contemporary conditions of this mobility and highlights how depending upon one's circumstances one moves up or down the socioeconomic ladder.
The present lot is a monumentally scaled jewel-like mirror that has simplicity of form, and yet it conveys brilliantly complex meaning. Ovoid-shapes are articulated throughout the piece: the ears and head, the torso, and the paws. The ornamental rosettes are placed where these circular shapes meet. The confluence of these soft repetitions rendered in a hard surface affirms the classically alluring sense of symmetry and visual rhyme. In Teddy Bear Orange, Koons subverts the elitist potency of the jeweled object by shaping the mirror to recall the childhood comfort of a non-threatening motif signified by the cut-out of a cuddly toy bear. Koons' mirror is made accessible in this manner as a construct for the reflexive act of love between the beholder and the enhancement offered by the object. One adores a beautiful object and fundamentally responds with a feeling of wholeness when this is reflected back upon them; this interaction creates a personalized aesthetic perfection. Thus when the viewer encounters Teddy Bear Orange, his or her reflection becomes a fundamental part of the work. Fairy tale allusions abound as one peers through the looking glass or asks the mirror on the wall, who indeed is the fairest of them all? Each viewer is seamlessly amalgamated with the stunning beauty of this mirror.
Thus Teddy Bear Orange is a symbol of validation and acceptance. It boldly but elegantly asks us to look for the answers within ourselves. Common to all his masterworks, Koons' crucial point is to reject any hidden meaning in his artwork. The meaning is only what one perceives at first glance; there is no gap between what the work is in itself and what is perceived.