Jeff Koons’ Philosophy of Perfection

Visit the Blockbuster Artist at His Voluminous Studio Ahead of a Whitney Retrospective

“Much of his work focuses around the idea of sensuality and being alive,” explains filmmaker Matt Black of the master of the grand pop gesture, Jeff Koons. “It’s not a cold world he creates.” The director turned his lens on America’s most successful living artist for his interview series Reflections, ahead of Koons’ major retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum, opening later this month. “He’s interested in creating a dialogue in art,” says Black, whose other head to heads include Larry Clark, Robert Longo and Damien Hirst. “Jeff Koons wants a dialogue with the audience, the public and to open the realm of how you experience art.” The upcoming show is a comprehensive look the artist’s provocative early work with inflatables—shortly after moving to New York in the late 1970s—through to his latest offerings that draw upon his extensive knowledge of art history. As a cultural phenomenon, Koons’ Celebration series of sculptures (including the highly publicized balloon dogs) as with so much of his oeuvre plays on the idea of perfection. He creates a super-polished and hyper-real version of the mundane. “As we had access to the painting studio, what fascinated me was the level of detail that goes into the work,” says Black. “One painting takes 10 to 12 months to finish and they have one entire room within the studio just to create color.”

Jeff Koons' retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art opens on June 27.

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Juergen Teller: Macho Man

    As the World Cup Begins,Tom Horan Talks to the Soccer-Mad Photographer About His Passion for the Beautiful Game

    For soccer nut Juergen Teller, it has never been enough simply to watch the World Cup. What the photographer and Bayern Munich fan likes is to watch himself watching it. During the 2002 final he asked an assistant to video his every grimace and expletive, as he squirmed on the couch while Germany lost to Brazil. The artwork didn't make for pretty viewing. “It was terrifying,” says Teller with a hearty laugh. “I was horrified. It took me three months to sit through the whole thing. But watching football is a time when you can be really stupid, and I like that. There aren't many times in life when you can let yourself go.”

    Part of Macho, a new show at the Deste Foundation in Athens, finds him back on the sofa again, this time with his son Ed, watching their beloved Bayern lose to Chelsea in the Champions League final. “I stationed two assistants left and right, next to the television. They bombarded us with pictures, and we ended up with a portfolio of 24 photographs. I thought if we win, we win. And if we lose, it’s terrible. But I had this idea that I was going to sell the portfolio to Dasha Zhukova, partner of Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea. And we lost, but I sold it for a lot of money, and she gave it to Roman as a present. It was a win-win situation!”

    Ed is his son with wife Sadie Coles, the British gallerist. Having a foot in both the Anglo and Teutonic camps, Teller Junior evidently boxes clever. “Last time England played Germany we were at the artist Darren Almond’s,” says Teller. “There were about 30 English supporters, and me and my assistant over in the corner supporting Germany. Ed was with my wife, saying ‘I'm with mummy!’ The game starts: 1-0 to Germany, then 2-0. At half time he comes over: ‘Daddy? Can I sit next to you guys?’” How the average England fan would love to have that option…

    Did you watch football with your own father?
    Juergen Teller:
    No he wasn’t a football fan, but my mum was. He was always a bit jealous of this bonding thing between me and my mother. He was a very melancholic, aggressive alcoholic, who ended up killing himself in 1988. In my World Cup final video, I recognized my dad in myself, when I was so aggressively shouting at the TV. And that was really hard to take.

    Do you play sports yourself?
    JT:
    You always bend over or sideways when you take photographs, and it's not a good position for your body. So I got a personal trainer to build up my core strength. I’m in this modern nylon, wearing crazy colours—it looks really ugly, and I grunt like a pig. And I thought, I’ve got to do something with this. So I started doing self-portraits while I’m doing exercise, to see what I looked like.

    Will you be hosting a World Cup party?
    JT:
    I like to invite people to watch the games—English and German friends. That’s the good thing about it, when you have kids, men and women together. It’s a great mixture. Beer. Barbecue. Sausages!

    Macho runs from June 20 through October 29 at Deste Foundation, Nea Ionia, Athens.

    Tom Horan writes for the Guardian and the Observer.

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  • MOST SHARED IN ART
    MOST SHARED IN ART

    Larry Clark: Marfa Girl

    The Hardcore Vision Behind the Cult Director's First Digital Release

    The ever-provocative photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark delves into the making of Marfa Girl, his first feature in seven years and the winner of the Marco Aurelio Award for Best Film at the Rome Film Festival, in today’s video by NOWNESS regular Matt Black. Set in the eponymous Texas desert town, the new work focuses on the culture clash arising from the area’s mix of Mexican Americans, ranchers, border patrol police and a creative scene founded by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who moved there in the 1970s. Starring a cast of mostly non-actors, Clark’s latest film returns to his signature themes of adolescent sexuality, the dark side of American youth and its unseen subcultures. The 69-year-old maverick achieved notoriety with his seminal 1971 black-and-white monograph Tulsa. His raw, intimate debut feature Kids – the controversial tale of a handful of nihilistic New York skaters – shot him to international fame in 1995, simultaneously launching the careers of Chloë Sevigny, Harmony Korine, Leo Fitzpatrick and Rosario Dawson. “He has a very authentic way of documenting sexual freedom, drug abuse and darkness,” says Black, Clark’s Tribeca neighbor. “When you pick up fashion magazines today, so much of the editorial is done in Larry’s street style. His visual codes are part of our language now.” While Clark’s documentary aesthetic has inspired generations of artists and filmmakers, in Hollywood he remains an outsider. Ratings and censorship led him to the decision to bypass distributors completely this time, making Marfa Girl available exclusively to watch online via his website larryclark.com. “Larry’s in a special position,” says Black. “He’s hugely respected in the fashion industry, the art industry and by young people. Heavyweight artists like Richard Prince and Christopher Wool love him. He can put this film online and everyone will want to see it—whether they like him or not.”

    (Read More)

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