Jeff Koons’s sculpted balloon animals and teddy bears are ready to be displayed at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, but the noted sculptor didn’t make it to the opening of his exhibit, due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus.
Koons spoke by video conference to a room full of reporters on Sunday, letting them know how he pleased he was to have the exhibition “Absolute Value” open at the museum on Tuesday.
“Absolute Value” will be on view throughout the museum’s largest exhibition space, the 850-square meter gallery in the new Herta and Paul Amir Building.
“I’m really thrilled to be able to show my work in the Tel Aviv museum,” said Koons.
The name of the Koons show, “Absolute Value,” is based on the mathematical term “absolute value” and its relationship to the tremendous prices paid for Koons’s works. The American-born artist from Pennsylvania is considered one of the most influential in pop-art history, and his works have broken records for the amounts paid for them by collectors.
The works being shown in Tel Aviv are from the Mugrabi collection, owned by the Mugrabi family, one of the wealthiest families in the art world.
The sculptures being shown include major works of art from different parts of Koons’s career, from the 1980s through the present, including “Bear and Policeman,” “Monkeys,” “Donkey” and “Beach.” They represent Koons’s work over the last three decades and comprise his first solo exhibition in Israel.
There are twelve large-scale works, from iconic series such as “Dolphin Taz Trashcan” (2007–11), from the Popeye series, and “Hulk (Rock)” (2004–13) from the Hulk Elvis series.
“Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice” (Violet) (2013–17), from the Antiquity series, references the history of art, a recurring subject in Koons’s recent work. The exhibition will also unveil “Ballet Couple” (2010-19), which has been in development for the past ten years.
“If people respond to my work, I believe it’s because my work embraces all different humanities, it functions like a hub,” said Koons.
The works often epitomize pop culture and Koons said he loves pop’s ability to make people aware of the world around them.
“Pop makes you aware of different political activities or different spiritual points of view, ” he said, “It also makes us very aware of ourselves and what our potential can be.”
As for the price tags on his works — his 1986 stainless steel rabbit sculpture broke the auction record for any work by a living artist when it was sold by Christie’s New York for just over $91 million in May 2019 — Koons commented that art allows people to preserve their past and maintain things that are important to humankind.
“That’s the value and relevance to us,” he said. “If society finds something of value, they will interpret that into an economic platform. What I find value is in meaning. Anything that gives a person meaning or potential of what their potential can be, that helps better our lives.”
Finally, Koons reflected on his luck, his life experiences and his supportive family that taught him to enjoy his interactions with people and to contribute to society.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate and hopefully I’ll be able to contribute in some way to society, that there’s something greater than the self,” he said.
In the meantime, there’s Jeff Koons at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, March 10 through October 10, 2020.