• Jeff Koons new exhibition Gazing Ball on display at David Zwirner Gallery.
  • Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball, exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery, New York.
  • Jeff Koons current exhibition Gazing Ball on display at David Zwirner Gallery.
  • Jeff Koons new exhibition Gazing Ball on display at David Zwirner Gallery.
Jeff Koons Gazing Ball - Farnese Hercules, 2013 plaster and glass.
Apollo Lykeios, 2013
Snowman, 2013

    Gazing Ball – Jeff Koons between tradition and the now

    29 May 2013

    By Katja Schmolka

    Jeff Koons is high society’s favored artist. With his abstract balloon animals, cast in mirror-polished stainless steel, he has left a lasting imprint on the art world. – His works are either loved or denounced as kitsch, but one thing is certain: he is the most highly remunerated artist of our time, and his powerful influence has been known to stir up the art world on occasion. Jeff Koons is big enough to be simultaneously staging shows at two of New York City’s most renowned and rivaling galleries: “Gazing Ball,” his first New York solo exhibition in five years, at David Zwirner, and “New Paintings and Sculpture” at Gagosian (both through 29 June). Of course, the two exhibitions focus on different subjects. It remains unclear why Jeff Koons eventually decided against presenting his new sculptures, which are inspired by Ancient Rome and Greece, at Gagosian. Rumor has it he preferred the rooms at Zwirner, which are filled with natural light. Then again, nobody really knows.

    Mount Olympus

    The plaster casts of Ancient Greek and Roman statues look rather heroic. Height is definitely a central theme of this exhibition. Just as the ancient Romans and Greeks looked up to their gods, so does, apparently, America’s most successful artist Jeff Koons. Hercules, god of health and oracles and patron of gymnasia, measures an amazing 128 1/2 by 66 15/16 by 48 5/8 inches, and the surrealistic snowman reaches a similarly dizzying height. The rooms of the Zwirner gallery are the perfect backdrop for this abundance of power and grandeur.

    It is impressive how, upon entering the room, the statues’ authenticity immediately captivates the eye. Folds draped around the hips, wreaths of leaves, female and male forms sculpted so realistically they seem to come alive any moment. At a second glance, something unexpected appears: a round blue shape. An object that at first does not seem to fit into the picture at all. It is a handblown midnight blue ball with a metallic shine, resting on a different spot on each statue. The spectator is mesmerized by this banality, which in the combination of this setup shows real genius. Jeff Koons comments on his new works as follows: “I’ve thought about the gazing ball for decades. I’ve wanted to show the affirmation, generosity, sense of place, and joy of the senses that the gazing ball symbolizes. The Gazing Ball series is based in transcendence. The realization of one’s mortality is abstract thought and from there, one is able to have a concept of the external world, one’s family, community, and a vaster dialogue with human kind beyond the present. The Gazing Ball series is based on the philosopher’s gaze, starting with transcendence through the senses, but directing one’s vision (the philosopher’s gaze) towards the eternal through pure form and ideas.” It is good to know that traditional handicraft still has a place in modern art, stirring up all kinds of emotions inside the intrigued spectator.

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