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June 23, 2014

Why the World Needs a Massive Jeff Koons Retrospective

By Scott Rothkopf | Art, Arts + Culture, Museums

Jeff Koons
Collection of the artist. ©Jeff Koons.

Scott Rothkopf, curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art's survey of the artist, opening June 27.

Jeff Koons and I began talking about putting on a show in 2010. The Whitney knew it was going to be moving downtown, and we were thinking about ways to celebrate its departure from the Breuer building. An unprecedented Jeff Koons retrospective felt like an exciting grand finale. It allowed for something we’ve never done before: give a single artist the building. People are often shocked that Jeff has never had a major museum show in New York. But once we started working on the exhibit, it was clear why that might be. The works are very fragile—and very expensive. We’re talking about large porcelain objects that could break, shiny metal surfaces that attract fingerprints. To do the show required a tremendous amount of logistical collaboration. People are aware of Jeff as the center of hype about the marketplace, about artists as celebrities, about industrial fabrication. But that has obscured the fact that he’s made some of the great works of art in the last half century. The scandal of his reception is central to the way that he’s pushed the limits for so many artists today. I hope the exhibition will allow people to marvel at the variety of subjects, materials and scales that his art comprises. “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” is on view through October 19; 945 Madison Ave., New York; whitney.org.

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