Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Jeff Koons (b. 1955)

Doctor's Delight

Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Doctor's Delight
stainless steel
11 x 6 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. (27.9 x 17.1 x 14.6 cm.)
Executed in 1986. This work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.
The Estate of Ileana Sonnabend, acquired directly from the artist
By descent to the present owner
A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 90, fig. 5 (another example illustrated).
J. Koons, The Jeff Koons Handbook, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London, 1992, pp. 79 and 158 (another example illustrated).
H. Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2008, pp. 234-235 (another example illustrated).
Sculpture After Sculpture: Fritsch/Koons/Ray, exh. cat., Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2014, p. 73 (another example illustrated).
J. Koons and N. Rosenthal, Jeff Koons: Conversations with Norman Rosenthal, London and New York, 2014. p. 130 (another example
S. Rothkopf, Jeff Koons: La Retrospective, Paris, 2014. pp. 102 and 104.
Jeff Koons: Retrospectiva, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 2015, pp. 98 and 302 (another example illustrated).
New York, Sonnabend Gallery, Group Show, 1986.
Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Veit Loers, Schlaf der Vernunft, February 1988, p. 223 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Newport Harbor Art Museum, OBJECTives: The New Sculpture, April-June 1990, pp. 92-93 and 173 (another example exhibited and
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 1992-February 1993 and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, July 1993-October 1993, Jeff Koons, no. 34, pl. 34 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, November 1992-January 1993; Denmark, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, January-February 1993 and
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, March-April 1993, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, p. 48 (Amsterdam and Stuttgart; illustrated), p. 50, no. 34 (Aarhaus; illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Jeff Koons, September-November 1997, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Serpentine Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum, Give and Take, January-April 2001.
Greenwich, Bruce Museum, The Great American Nude, June-September 2002, p. 63 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Jeff Koons, June-September 2003, pp. 58-59 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, June-October 2014, p. 94 (illustrated).

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Saara Pritchard
Saara Pritchard

Lot Essay

Jeff Koons’s Doctor’s Delight (1986) originates from one of the most important series in the artist’s early career—Statuary. Sculptures from this series were displayed at the groundbreaking group show coined by the press as the “Neo-Geo” show at Sonnabend Gallery in 1986. Koons’s work, so different from the Neo-Expressionists of the early 1980s, was a standout, and his career was quickly catapulted into the limelight. The version of Doctor’s Delight on offer at Christie’s is all the more exceptional as it belonged to the private collection of Ileana Sonnabend, who discovered a young Koons in the East Village scene and brought him to prominence in her prestigious SoHo gallery.

But not only is Doctor’s Delight historically important to Koons’s career, it also functions as an iconic work in its own right. The comical sculpture shows a scene of a grinning doctor ready to minister medicine to a young woman. Originally, the work was fashioned in capodimonte porcelain, and intended as a humorous, somewhat naughty, mantle decoration. Koons, drawing on the arthistorical precedent of Marcel Duchamp, utilized the object as a readymade sculpture and had it cast in stainless steel, transforming the work’s surface and meaning. It is worth noting that while Marcel Duchamp appropriated non-art objects (such as a bottle rack or shovel) and exhibited them in an artistic setting, Koons sourced low-art objects and, with minimal changes, displayed them in a high-art context. Doctor’s Delight existed as a collectible before Koons’s transformation, but art that was not viewed with favor by the artistic elite. Rather, the porcelain figure that Doctor’s Delight is drawn from is the archetype of popular culture, the antithesis of high-art that was excoriated by noted art critic Clement Greenberg in his famous 1939 essay. As a post-modern meditation on aesthetics, Koons’s Statuary series rejected the clear-cut distinctions between high and low taste, exploring how artistic preferences are related to class. Curator and art historian Katy Siegel concurs: “The series marked the emergence of an important theme in Koons’s work: the validation of popular taste, as linked to the class background of individuals. The stainless steel tchotchkes reassure us that the things we secretly or naturally love (like decorative figurines) are just as significant and worthy of respect as those things (like high art) that we are supposed to appreciate.” (K. Siegel in Jeff Koons, Taschen, 2009, p. 222).

Doctor’s Delight, in signature Koons style, does not arise in a creative vacuum, but is crafted in dialogue with a number of art-historical
references. For instance, Koons thrusts Duchamp’s avant-garde strategies of the readymade into the late 20th century, but Statuary
also contains interesting relationships with the sparser, more straightfaced Minimalism and Conceptual art of the 1970s. Specifically,
Koons’s series wryly draws inspiration from Donald Judd’s outsourcing and fabrication of his artworks, and Doctor’s Delight shiny metallic surface acts as a nod towards the industrial materials of Carl Andre. But Koons gives Minimalism a twist: rather than mimic
the aesthetic of the factory, Koons looks to democratize art, elevating popular cultural objects to the same level as fine art. For this strategy to succeed, Doctor’s Delight had to be created not in bronze (the traditional medium of fine-art sculpture), but rather in stainless steel, the material of choice for many of America’s mass-produced consumer goods. With this simple yet deft touch, Koons shocked the art world of the 1980s, permanently altering the landscape of post-war art history. The rarity and historical importance of this work is unparalleled. Ileana Sonnabend recognized this, and set aside Doctor’s Delight for her own personal collection. It is only now on offer to the public, nearly 30 years later.


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