JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)


JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
signed, numbered and dated 'J. Koons '07-'12 3⁄3' (on the underside)
mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating
57 7⁄8 x 18 7⁄8 x 37 in. (147 x 47.9 x 94 cm.)
Executed in 2007-2012. This work is number three from an edition of three plus an artist’s proof.
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Private collection, 2012
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 10 May 2016, lot 42B
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
M. Sollins, ed., Art:21: Art in the Twenty-First Century 5, New York, 2009, pp. 90 and 94 (another example from the edition illustrated).
D. Kunitz, "Frieze London: Beauty, Hold the Flash," Blouin Artinfo, 17 October 2013, n.p.
K. Cole and R. Sandagatal, "Looking & Learning: Jeff Koons," School Arts Legacy 116, no. 6, February 2017 (another example from the edition illustrated on the front cover).
Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean, exh. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 2019, p. 14 (another example from the edition illustrated).
E.L., "Marseille en pincera-t-elle pour Jeff Koons," Beaux Arts, January 2021, n.p. (another example from the edition illustrated).
G.G., "Jeff Koons dialoguera avec le Mucem," La Provence, 7 February 2021, n.p. (another example from the edition illustrated).
S. Philippe, "Jeff Koons dialogue avec les objets du Mucem," Arts Magazine (France), May 7, 2021, n.p. (another example from the edition illustrated).
"L'artiste Jeff Koons, Superstar du Mucem," Lunettes Galerie, May 2021 (another example from the edition illustrated).
"Jeff Koons Mucem, Oeuvres de la Collection Pinault," Beaux Arts, May 2021, pp. 7-10, 22 and 30 (another example from the edition illustrated).
M. Giono, "Jeff Koons: Io, artista grazie all'Italia," La Repubblica, 30 September 2021, n.p.
Brussels, Almine Rech Gallery, Jeff Koons, October-November 2012, pp. 7, 11, 18-21, 73, 81 and 89 (another example from the edition exhibited and illustrated).
Ville de Dinard, Le Festin de l'Art, June-September 2014, p. 100 (another example from the edition exhibited and illustrated on the front cover).
Marseilles, Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, Jeff Koons Mucem: Works from the Pinault Collection, May-October 2021, pp. 73, 126-7, 173 and 238 (another example from the edition exhibited and illustrated).
Florence, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Jeff Koons: Shine, October 2021 -January 2022 (another example from the edition exhibited).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

Jeff Koons is one of today’s preeminent champions of the Pop aesthetic, and an interrogator of nostalgia and consumerism in equal measure. His triumphant use of everyday objects that bring to light deeper issues of mortality, commerce, and the inner workings of the art world stems from an innate ability to combine seemingly innocent objects with deeper connections to the human condition. Lobster is a lustrous example of Koons’s so-called inflatables which marry kitsch with conceptual depth. Connecting his series of steel-clad pool toys with a larger idea, Koons has said, “I think of the inflatables as anthropomorphic, we are ourselves inflatables, we take a breath, we expand; we contract, our last breath in life, our deflation” (J. Koons quoted in S. Murg, “Jeff Koons: We Are Ourselves Inflatables,” August 6, 2009). The original objects inflate and deflate as air is drawn in and out, just as a person breathes until they cannot; they are both are temporary and changeable. Lobster is an impervious duplicate, its steel skin cannot deflate and thus it rises above the ordinary into a sculptural plane beyond the temporal.

Rendered life-size in fire truck red with accents of black and golden yellow, Lobster is an immaculate reproduction of an inflatable toy one might use as a floatation device in a pool or at the beach. Replete with two black handles near the crustacean’s head, Koons includes seams, ripples, and the dimples inherent in a fully inflated plastic toy as the air strains at the surrounding structure. However, there is a visual weight to Lobster that is rectified when the viewer learns that it is crafted from stainless steel. The polar opposite of the pliable polyethylene item Koons found as he combed the dollar stores of New York’s Lower East Side, this sturdy structure acts as an icon of commodity culture. The artist further blurs the reading by placing the object face down resting on the tip of its head and two open claws on either side; the tail rises into the air like a Surrealist obelisk.

Imbued with a latent eroticism, Lobster is taut and gleaming in its stance. Koons himself backs up this sexualized reading and has noted, “If you look at [Lobster’s] arms, very strong, but they could be fallopian tubes and its body could be the womb. If you look at its tail, it’s almost like a stripper with a boa doing a feather dance, and also has tentacles that look like Dali’s mustache” (J. Koons quoted in N. Hartvig, “’It’s Somebody Having Sex’: Jeff Koons Bares the Subject of His Art in Brussels,” The Huffington Post, December 15, 2012). The reference to Dalí is especially telling, as the preeminent Surrealist often inserted the image of the lobster into his erotically-charged dreamscapes. Coupled with an obvious nod to Duchampian readymades, Koons connects his work to an art historical trajectory concerned with desire, both intimate and commercial. By subverting the object’s position and material, he opens up a larger conversation about the item itself and also the place of novelties and mass-produced trinkets within our cultural unconscious.

Stemming from the artist’s notable Popeye series that began in 2002, Lobster and its companion works all evolved from one of Koons’s most iconic works, the 1986 stainless steel Rabbit. This early conflation of inflatables and industrial materials allowed the artist to infuse a frivolous object with the staying power of a cast sculpture. “Polishing the metal lent it a desirous surface, but also one that gave affirmation to the viewer,” Koons noted about Rabbit and his other early polished steelworks in the Statuary series. “And this is also the sexual part - it’s about affirming the viewer, telling him, ‘You exist!’ When you move, it moves. The reflection changes. If you don’t move, nothing happens. Everything depends on you, the viewer. And that’s why I work with it. It has nothing to do with narcissism” (J. Koons, quoted in I. Graw, “‘There Is No Art in It’: Isabelle Graw in Conversation with Jeff Koons,” pp. 75-83, M. Ulrich (ed.), Jeff Koons: The Painter, exh. cat., Frankfurt, 2012, p. 78).

The dichotomy present between its seeming fragility and its actual weight creates a dynamic conversation about objecthood and throwaway culture. Where Rabbit was polished to a mirror sheen that allowed the viewer to see their reflection, Lobster has been painstakingly detailed to look like its source. The cartoon colors and bold lines present on the original pool toy have been transferred to the sculptural surface which confuses the eye as the audience tries to separate the trite from the treasure.

Key to understanding Koons’s oeuvre is acknowledging the push and pull between the mundane and the luxuriously extravagant. His ability to transform tchotchkes and throwaway novelties into lasting symbols is a testament to his innate sense of where the dividing line between culture and commodity meet. By working in steel and coating it with a dazzling sheen, the artist appeals to our magpie instincts. We see shiny, glittery things and immediately think of luxury and wealth, even if there is none to be found. The illusion of affluence, value, and power is tied to sleek, sparkling objects throughout art history, an idea which Koons calls upon often.

Speaking about his polished steelwork, he noted, "It is a very seductive shiny material and the viewer looks at this and feels for the moment economically secure. It's most like the gold- and silver-leafing in church during the Baroque and the Rococo" (J. Koons, quoted in A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 22). The seduction of his inflatables cannot be overemphasized. They appear as common, familiar objects that have been thrust into some higher sphere of extravagance. With Lobster, and other works like Dolphin (2007-13), the mirror-polished stainless steel imbues the printed image of the animal’s features with an otherworldly gleam more in tune with stained glass and precious metalwork than summertime backyard frivolity.

At the core of this series, Koons constructs a dialogue on mortality and the fleeting nature of wealth and luxury. By appropriating mundane objects and elevating them to high art status, the artist reminds us of the changeable nature of the universe and how worth (both personal and monetary) can be altered almost infinitely throughout time. He speaks about the idea of life in terms of breath when he talks about Lobster and the other inflatables, noting, “When you take a deep breath, it’s a symbol of life and of optimism, and when you take your last breath, that last exhale is a symbol of death. If you see an inflatable deflated, it’s a symbol of death. These are the opposite” (J. Koons, quoted in J. Peyton-Jones & H.U. Obrist, “Jeff Koons in Conversation,” pp. 67- 75, Peyton-Jones, Obrist & K. Rattee (ed.), Jeff Koons: Popeye Series, exh. cat., London, 2009, p. 71). Because of their steel shells, the inflatables will never deflate. They will witness many lifetimes without ever having to exhale. They are a constant beacon of life and optimism coupled with a nostalgic air that pulls the viewer out of everyday drudgery to muse upon the riches of existence.

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