Jeff Koons in Europe: First major retrospective underway

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about,” the great nineteenth century writer and poet Oscar Wilde once famously remarked.
Jeff Koons is the subject of much conversation, much of it congratulatory, a lot of it disparaging, but, whatever side of the fence you sit on, it’s chitchat all the same. For good or bad, you’re certainly doing something with your art to attract such widespread and attention.
Someone, for example, described him as the Willy Wonka of art, although what that quite means is anyone’s guess. Is Roald Dahl’s colourful character a mad genius, or someone with the ability to get other people to transform his ideas into larger than life constructs?
The jury is still out deliberating, heatedly so, but presently, things look rather good. Commercially he’s doing exceptionally well and critically, right up to the present day, things aren’t so bad. Take his latest show at The Centre Pompidou – it is his first major retrospective in Europe.
“This retrospective is designed to take stock of an unquestionably great body of work, now inseparable from the man who created it,” the organisers of the exhibition state.
“Because the work of Jeff Koons is undeniably an American story, an American dream. A pragmatic, resolutely positive body of work; a joyous challenge in a world full of ups and downs; a vision that is certainly playful but more subversive than it seems – an aspect its creator avoids mentioning.”
The exhibition is organised chronologically, covering his output from the last 35 years. Here we see what is supposed to be his intentionally juvenile early objects, which reflect the art of the time in which they were conceived, and his current work, which purportedly have a “dialogue with the history of classical art”.
According to The Centre Pompidou, with each cycle of productivity – chapters in his oeuvre – his work becomes “increasingly established”. As a whole, his entire body of work is consistently provocative, “great” even, but it is observable that the more adept he becomes at conceiving original, groundbreaking ideas, the better his work is.
“From the early assemblages seeking to synthesise pop and minimalism, to the plaster moulds embellished with decorations for parks and gardens, Koons has sought to establish his approach through a succession of series with subjects that speak to everybody, in an attempt to reconcile modern art and popular culture in a celebration of finally reunited opposites,” the museum states.
Koons is positioned as being an ambitious artist, whose keenness is to pursue the impossible of a lofty weight. The Centre Pompidou posits that his impulse to create in the style he does is deliberate.
He seeks, we are told, “to fault the paradoxes of a theoretical discourse which in modern times has often only found justification in what it believed was its opposition to power”.
Speaking to Bernard Blistène recently, director of The Centre Pompidou, he says that the guiding principle of his work has been a meditation on life, both the internal and external aspects that inform and shape our experiences and the way in which they associate with one another: “It’s a complete circle. The inner life is externalised, and the outer life is internalised.”
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective at The Centre Pompidou runs until April 27th 2015.
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