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Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Pink Panther
signed, numbered and dated 'Jeff Koons 88 AP' (on the underside)
porcelain
41 x 20 1/2 x 19 in. (104.1 x 52.1 x 48.3 cm.)
Executed in 1988. This work is the artist's proof from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.
Provenance
Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne
Private collection, 1992
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 10 May 2011, lot 10
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
K. Kertess, "Bad," Parkett, vol. 19, Zurich, 1989, p. 41 (another example illustrated in color).
"Koons' Kitschiger Zombie-Zoo," Stern, December 21, 1989, p. 110 (another example illustrated in color).
M. Collings, "You are a White Man, Jeff...," Modern Painters, June 1989, p. 61 (another example illustrated in color).
G. Magnani, "This is Not Conceptual," Flash Art, March 1989, p. 85 (another example illustrated in color).
S. Morgan, "Big Fun," Artscribe, March 1989, p. 49 (another example illustrated in color).
High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, ehx. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1991, p. 396, no. 34 (another example illustrated in color).
J. Siukonen, Artist: Images & Reality Seminar, New York, 1991 (another example illustrated in color).
"The Ape Mother as a Tea-pot," Daidalos, no. 40, 15 June 1991, p. 45 (another example illustrated in color).
J. Koons and R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 105 (another example illustrated in color).
A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 112 and 114-155 (another example illustrated in color).
A. Jorg-Uwe, "Jeff Koons, ein Prophet der inneren Leere," Art, December 1992, p. 56 (another example illustrated).
L. Morell, "Jeff Koons Interview: The Political Value of Art," Skala: Nordic Magazine of Architecture and Art, no. 28, 1992 (illustrated on the cover).
T. Ropac, ed., Die Muse? Transforming the Image of Woman in Contemporary Art, Munich, 1995, p. 74 (another example illustrated).
On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the Werner and Elaine Dannheisser Collection, exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1997, pp. 80-81 (another example illustrated in color).
Naked Since 1950, exh. cat., New York, C & M Arts, 2001, fig. 48 (another example illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2001, p. 19 (another example illustrated in color).
F. S. Kleiner; C. J. Mamiya and R. G. Tansey, Gardners Art Through the Ages, Orlando, 2001, p. 132, fig. 34-79 (another example illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, exh. cat., New York, C & M Arts, 2004, pl. 7 (another example illustrated in color and illustrated on the front and back covers).
R. Lacayo, "How Does '80s Art Look Now," TIME, 28 March 2005, pp. 59-60.
K. D. Thomas, "The Selling of Jeff Koons," Art News, vol. 104, no. 5, May 2005, pp. 19 and 117 (another example illustrated in color).
T. Rosenstein, "Bad Boy der Kunstszene," Art Investor, Germany, 2006, no. 3, pp. 50-58 (another example illustrated in color).
L. Zappi, "O Rei do Neopop; o controvertido artista Americano Jeff Koons rejeita rótulo de kitsch," Illustrada, Brazil, 26 July 2006 (another example illustrated in color on the cover).
S. C. Canarutto, Jeff Koons (Supercontemporanea Series), Milan, 2006, pp. 54 and 55 (another example illustrated in color and on the cover).
Blacksquare, 2007, p. 69 (another example illustrated in color).
C. Dietrich, "Eben hineinstolpern ins Glück," Vorarlberger Nachrichten, Austria, 17 February 2007, pp. A1 and D7 (another example illustrated).
S. Seymour, "Jeff Koons: Art Made in Heaven," Whitewall, Fall 2007, p. 140 (another example illustrated in color).
C. Tomkins, "The Turnaround Artist," New Yorker, April 23, 2007, p. 60.
L. Camhi, "The Seer - Ileana Sonnabend," The New York Times, Style Magazine, 2 December 2007, p. 209 (another example illustrated in color).
Re-Object: Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Merz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2007, pp. 17, 111 and 114-115 (another example illustrated in color).
R. Pincus-Witten, "Passages: The Eyes Had It," Artforum, January 2008, p. 70 (another example illustrated in color and installation view at the Sonnabend Gallery illustrated).
Lichtenstein Girls, exh. cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, 2008, p. 12 (another example illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008, pp. 10 and 62 (another example illustrated in color and on the cover).
Jeff Koons Versailles, exh. cat., Chateau de Versailles, , 2008, pp. 73 - 75, 152, and 166 (another example illustrated in color).
H. W. Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007, p. 48, 55, 279, 288-289 and 565 (another example illustrated in color).
M. P. Nakamura, "USA: Jeff Koons," Art Actuel, no. 57, July/August 2008, p. 71 (another example illustrated in color).
G. Bader, "Jeff Koons: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago," Artforum, September 2008, p. 450 (another example illustrated in color).
Art Actuel, no. 58, September-October 2008 (another example illustrated in color on the cover).
R. Morata, "Jeff Koons au Chateau de Versailles," Point de Vue, 17 September 2008, p. 63 (another example illustrated in color).
U. Thon, "Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand," Art, October 2008, p. 39 (another example illustrated in color).
P. Dagen, "Evenement: Jeff Koons Versailles," Artpress, November 2008, p. 24 (another example illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, 2008, p. 35 (another example illustrated in color).
J, Fineberg, Art Since 1940 Strategies of Being, New York, 2010, p. 459 (another example illustrated in color).
Kunst: Fotografie, Grafik, Neue Medien, Architektur, Malerei, Skulptur, Techniken, New York, 2010, p. 494 (another example illustrated in color).
Brigitte Kölle and Stiftung Kunstsammlung, Es geht voran: Kunst der 80er. Eine Düsseldorfer Perspektive, Munich, 2010, p. 148 (another example illustrated in color).
K. Siegel, Since '45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art, London, 2011, p. 161 (another example illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler; New York, Sonnabend Gallery and Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, Banality, November 1988-January 1989 (another example exhibited).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Aarhus, Aarhus Kunstmuseum and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, November 1992-April 1993, p. 99 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color, Amsterdam and Stuttgart), p. 61, no. 42 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color, Aarhus).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, December 1992-October 1993, p. 132, no. 45, pl. 43 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, C Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, April-June 2004, n.p., no. 7 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Collección Taschen, October 2004-January 2005, pp. 126-127 and 134-135 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color and on the cover).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Figures in the Field: Figurative Sculpture and Abstract Painting from Chicago Collections, February-April 2006 (another example exhibited).
Versailles, Palace of Versailles, Jeff Koons: Versailles, September 2008-January 2009, pp. 72-75 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Greenwich, The Brant Foundation, Remembering Henry's Show, May 2009-January 2010, pp. 93 and 174 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Seeing Is a Kind of Thinking: A Jim Nutt Companion, January-May 2011 (another example exhibited).
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Jeff Koons: The Painter & The Sculptor, June-September 2012.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, June 2014-September 2015, pp. 111 and 287, pl. 65 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Post Lot Text
Examples from this edition are in the collections of New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


Within its stately proportions, Jeff Koons’s Pink Panther manages to capture many of the artist’s themes that have made his work some of the most compelling art in a generation. Part of his famed Banality series, the image of the young starlet embracing a cartoon pink panther draws together issues of childhood, innocence and sexuality, which have dominated Koons’s career to date. Pink Panther displays the artist’s wry sense of humor and exacting eye for detail. Executed in 1988 in an edition of three (plus one artist’s proof), two works from this edition are housed in the prestigious collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Consequently, the present work presents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking works in Koons’s oeuvre.

Pink Panther shows an embrace between a voluptuous young woman and a well-known cartoon character. The buxom blonde embraces the Pink Panther, but seems somewhat preoccupied. Her head is turned over her shoulder, as if distracted by someone she recognizes or maybe by the flashbulbs of a passing paparazzo. Immediately she adopts the classic pose of someone who lives her life in front of the camera; her back is arched to accentuate her ample figure, her flowing blonde hair tumbles over her bare shoulders and her scarlet lips are parted to show a flash of pristine white teeth. Her turquoise ruched dress appears to have slipped down and her modesty is only preserved by her cupped arm on the one hand and the embrace of the Pink Panther on the other. Yet despite this close encounter with a Marilyn Monroe-esque figure, the Pink Panther appears dejected. His mouth appears downturned and his eyebrows are heavy with a sense of dejection as he appears to be desperately clinging to his female friend. Yet even in this apparently simple narrative, all does not appear as it seems, as the meandering tale of this depressed creature wanders provocatively towards the woman’s partially exposed buttocks.

By choosing both a pin-up character and the Pink Panther as his subject matter, Koons mines recent history to recast a timeless theme. The Pink Panther was created by Hawley Pratt to appear in the opening sequence for the eponymous 1963 film starring Peter Sellers. However, it was only when the character was given his own children’s TV series later in the ‘60s that his fame really took off and he entered the mainstream contemporary consciousness.

Despite the contemporary subject matter, Koons’s use of porcelain delves into history, recalling the Meissen ceramics of the mid-18th century in both its appearance and execution. Koons’s careful selection of materials is part of the conceptual rigor of his sculpture, speaking to the importance of the whole work, rather than just providing a vehicle with which to display a visual communication. Just as he did in his Statuary series and would do with other works in the Banality series, Koons engages with our knowledge and acceptance of these motifs to challenge our understanding of these contemporary objects. “Banality was about communicating to the bourgeois class,” the artist states. “I wanted to remove their guilt and shame about the Banality that motivates them and which they respond to” (J. Koons, quoted by A. Muthesius (ed.)., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 28). As such, for Koons, these works become objects to celebrate precisely because of their ubiquitous appearance. “The Banality gang have found their place in the pantheon of art history. …He created the objects precisely because of their power to represent collective taste, and wanted them to be catalysts for self-acceptance” (I. Sischy, in H. Werner Holzwarth (ed.), Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p.13).

Despite the mainstream subject matter, the exquisite craftsmanship and the highly skilled execution, the underlying sexual nature of the work is clear. In contrast to his Made in Heaven series, which would begin a year later, Koons’s discussions on sex here are less blatant, yet nonetheless present. In Pink Panther, Koons relies more on the subtle associations conjured up by both his subjects and his material than on the imagery which would soon follow. Indeed, as Eckhard Schneider has observed, “In Pink Panther Jeff Koons works with beautiful surfaces…and juxtaposes the traditional realism of the female torso with the powerful visual quality of the Pink Panther. Moreover, the unfolding lasciviousness of the panther lends the sculpture a grotesque air, and charges it with latent sexuality” (E. Schneider quoted by H. Werner Holzwarth (ed.), Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 51).

Koons’s unique combination of ideas and imagery alludes to a wider move in his career at this point, that of a return to using the idea of collage. Banality was the first series in which Koons’s sculptures were not composed primarily of readymades. Instead, he gained inspiration from sifting through thousands of collected images from newspapers, magazines and books to arrive at his desired form. Then, with the help of the finest specialist artisans in the world, Koons finally brings these works into existence. In the case of Pink Panther, the quality of the porcelain, the richness of the contrasting textures that ripple across the surface and the vibrant colors all reinforce the artificiality of the object and are the culmination of a long and dedicated process that resulted in some of the most astonishing works of his career.

The era when he created the Banality series was an important moment in Koons’s career, a time when he gained widespread attention in the art world. The project was entirely financed by his dealer Ileana Sonnabend, who only saw the results of her patronage as the crates were opened for the first time prior to the exhibition at her gallery in New York. Works from this series were also shown in Chicago and Europe, a factor responsible for the artist’s increasing international reputation. “1988 marked the apotheosis of Koons as an art star. His new series debuted simultaneously in three major international galleries: Sonnabend in New York, Max Hetzler in Cologne, and Donald Young in Chicago. The Hubris of this three-ring circus heralded his new position as a major player in the contemporary art scene, with commensurate expectations for the work. Koons didn’t choose this moment to proclaim lofty ambitions, or adjust the tone of his work to suitable seriousness, however. In fact, he deliberately took the opposite tack, aggressively titling the new series Banality” (K. Siegel, quoted in H.W. Holzwarth (ed.), Jeff Koons, Cologne 2009, p. 254).

Koons’s career has been a continuous journey of exploration and innovation but one theme has remained central throughout: that of desire. His first series, The New (1983), depicts the object-lust of consumerism by monumentalizing sparkling new vacuum cleaners in glass cases. In a material age defunct of spirituality, the transfer of desire onto objects is rampant and is relentlessly propagated by the media. It is this feature that forms one of Koons’s preoccupations; indeed, many of his works are loaded with connotations of desire. The suspended basketballs in water tanks in Equilibrium (1985) tackled broader issues of race and class, but the theme of aspiration towards upward mobility is at its heart. Similarly, Luxury and Degradation (1986) had the ritual of alcohol consumption and its glamorization through advertising and drinking accessories at its forefront, but had the relentless pursuit of status and luxury at its core. Creating and reflecting a world of desire, Statuary (1986) embodies craving in its gleaming, stainless steel surfaces and reflects it back at the viewer. Daniela Salvioni states, “To an extent, consumer products have replaced art in reflecting and shaping people’s desires. Art may have performed this function when it was in the service of religion (as in the Renaissance) or of state building (as with French historical painting). Under advanced capitalism, consumer objects externalize and objectify the soul’s inner stirrings” (D. Salvioni, “Jeff Koons’s Poetics of Class,” in Jeff Koons, exh. cat. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1992, p.19). Merging art and popular subject matter, Pink Panther continues this theme, not only in the beauty of the object itself but also in the drama being played out by its two main characters.

One of the most influential figures in contemporary art for over three decades, Koons’s work challenges and amazes in equal measure. The subject of a recent major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, his influence remains undiminished, and he is, as Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf explains, as relevant today as he has ever been “…Koons, is not just a child of our times, he is an agent of it…” claims Rothkopf. “The boundaries he has broken are unique to his historical position with art’s great narrative and draw on the larger forces—technological, financial, social, and otherwise—of the moment in which we live. His art does not merely reflect or absorb its context, be it gallery, home, magazine, billboard, or museum. It gives as much as it takes, drawing in its surroundings and illuminating them with a peculiar truth-telling aura” (S. Rothkopf, “No Limits,” Jeff Koons: Retrospective, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2014, p. 33).

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