Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Property from a Private American Collector
Jeff Koons (b. 1955)

Little Girl

Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Little Girl
signed, numbered and dated 'Jeff Koons 1/3 '88' (on the reverse)
mirror, glass
63 x 64½ x 3 in. (160 x 163.8 x 7.6 cm.)
Executed in 1988. This work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Private collection, Germany
Anon. sale; Sotheby's New York, 9 November 2005, lot 3
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner
A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 110, no. 14 (another example illustrated in color).
R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, New York, 1992, p. 159.
H.W. Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007, pp. 284, 288 and 586 (another example illustrated in color).
B. Kölle, Es geht voran: Kunst der 80er. Eine Düsseldorf Perspektive, Munich, 2010, p. 148 (another example illustrated in color).
Cologne, Gallery Max Hetzler; New York, Sonnabend Gallery and Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, Banality, November 1988-January 1989 (another example exhibited); p. 35 (another example illustrated in color; Cologne).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Aarhus, Kunstmuseum and Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Jeff Koons, November 1992-April 1993, pp. 57 and 59 (another example illustrated in color; Amsterdam) and no. 44 (another example illustrated in color; Aarhus).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, December 1992-October 1993, no. 42, pl. 44 (another example illustrated in color).

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Robert Manley
Robert Manley

Lot Essay

Jeff Koons' Little Girl is a vast, flawless and multi-faceted wall mirror, adorned with ornamental red and green glass flowers. The little girl sits with her legs akimbo, clutching a teddy bear and clusters of flowers in her clenched fists. The image projects childlike innocence, saccharine charm and Christian symbolism, subverted by Koons celebrated use of sexual cliché and irony. Koons created Little Girl at the height of his acclaimed Banality series, commenting on the status of high and low art and the denouncement of kitsch by contemporary art theoreticians and critics.

Koons refuses to dismiss images of pop culture, instead reinforcing their importance as part of the popular imaginary, elevating them to the status of high art. For Koons, we should embrace and not suppress the impulse to express personality and personal history. As the artist has suggested, "art can be a horrible discriminator. It can be used either to be uplifting and to give self-empowerment, or to debase people and disempower them. And on the tightrope in between, there is one's cultural history ... everybody's cultural history is perfect, it can't be anything other than what it is - it is absolute perfection. Banality is the embracement of that" (J. Koons, quoted in Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 260). Koons resolutely champions the everyman, depicting collective taste in beautifully rendered form. In Little Girl, the expertly shaped myriad of mirrored glass makes up his children's story book composition.

In Little Girl, Koons casts the beholder's image as a fundamental part of the work. The viewer is not greeted by the rarefied, gilded mirror, but rather by the childhood scene's quaint familiarity, filled with flowers, garden and cuddly toy. In this way, Koons confirms his support for the individual and the cult of personality, establishing both the viewer and kitsch as subjects of high art. The composition itself alludes to the Banality series's broader theme, the Biblical Garden of Eden in which Adam and Eve lose their virtue, precipitously falling from grace. In representing this image, Koons highlights the freedoms of pleasure before the moral impositions of religion or society. Little Girl is an emblem of redemption, validation and acceptance; as the artist has said, "for me, this is the symbol of being baptized in the mainstream - to be baptized in banality. The bourgeoisie right now can feel relieved of their sense of guilt and shame, from their own moral crisis and the things they respond to" (J. Koons, quoted in Burke et al., "From Full Fathom Five," Parkett, 19, March 1989, quoted in Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 260).

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