Jeff Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1955. He studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1976. Koons lives and works in New York City.
Since his first solo exhibition in 1980, Koons’s work has been shown in major galleries and institutions throughout the world. His work was the subject of a major exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective (June 27 – October 19, 2014), which traveled to the Centre Pompidou Paris (November 26, 2014 – April 27, 2015) and the Guggenheim Bilbao (June 9 – September 27, 2015). A solo exhibition of recent and new work was recently on view at Gagosian, Beverly Hills (April 27 – August 18, 2017).
Koons is widely known for his iconic sculptures Rabbit and Balloon Dog as well as the monumental floral sculpture Puppy (1992), shown at Rockefeller Center and permanently installed at the Guggenheim Bilbao. Another floral sculpture, Split-Rocker (2000), previously installed at the Papal Palace in Avignon, Château de Versailles, and Fondation
Beyeler in Basel, was most recently on view at Rockefeller Center in 2014.
Jeff Koons has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of his cultural achievements. Notably, Koons received the Governor’s Awards for the Arts “Distinguished Arts Award” from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; the “Golden Plate Award” from the Academy of Achievement; President Jacques Chirac promoted Koons to Officier de la Legion d’Honneur; and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honored Koons with the State Department’s Medal of the Arts for his outstanding commitment to the Art in Embassies Program and international cultural exchange. In 2017, Koons was made the first Artist-in-Residence at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and, also, made an Honorary Member of University of Oxford’s Edgar Wind Society for Outstanding Contribution for Visual Culture. Koons has been a board member of The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) since 2002, and co-founded the Koons Family International Law and Policy Institute with ICMEC; for the purpose of combating global issues of child abduction and exploitation and to protect the world’s children.
Mixing animation, sculpture and sound, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg create psychologically charged scenarios dealing with human and animalistic desires. Since 2001, Djurberg has developed a distinctive style of filmmaking, using clay animation to dramatise the basest of natural instincts from jealousy, revenge and greed, to submission and lust. Her partner, the musician and composer Hans Berg, conjures up the atmospheric sound effects and scores the hypnotic music for Djurberg’s animations and installations. In 2004 they began working closely together as a duo to create transgressive narratives rich in symbolic meaning and emotional reach, mining allegorical myths and grotesque, nightmarish visions in pieces such as Tiger Licking Girl’s Butt (2004) and We Are Not Two, We Are One (2008). The artists’ interdisciplinary collaborations increasingly blur the cinematic, the sculptural, and the performative in immersive environments that pair moving images and musical compositions with related set pieces or built objects.
Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg currently live and work in Berlin, Germany. Born in Lysekil, Sweden in 1978, Nathalie Djurberg received her MFA from Malmö Art Academy, Sweden in 2002. Hans Berg was born in Rättvik, Sweden in 1978 and is a musician, producer and composer, working mainly with electronic music. They have exhibited widely together in group shows, including the 53rd Venice Biennale, Italy in 2009, while recent solo shows include the ‘The Secret Garden’ at the Shanghai 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2016) – a touring exhibition originally shown at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth, Australia (2016) and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia (2015) – and ‘Flickers of Day and Night’ at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark (2015).
Martin Parr is a chronicler of our age. In the face of the constantly growing flood of images released by the media, his photographs offer us the opportunity to see the world from his unique perspective.
At first glance, his photographs seem exaggerated or even grotesque. The motifs he chooses are strange, the colours are garish and the perspectives are unusual. Parr’s term for the overwhelming power of published images is “propaganda”. He counters this propaganda with his own chosen weapons: criticism, seduction and humour. As a result, his photographs are original and entertaining, accessible and understandable. But at the same time they show us in a penetrating way how we live, how we present ourselves to others, and what we value.
Leisure, consumption and communication are the concepts that this British photographer has been researching for several decades now on his worldwide travels. In the process, he examines national characteristics and international phenomena to find out how valid they are as symbols that will help future generations to understand our cultural peculiarities.
Parr enables us to see things that have seemed familiar to us in a completely new way. In this way he creates his own image of society, which allows us to combine an analysis of the visible signs of globalisation with unusual visual experiences. In his photos, Parr juxtaposes specific images with universal ones without resolving the contradictions. Individual characteristics are accepted and eccentricities are treasured.
The themes Parr selects and his inimitable treatment of them set him apart as a photographer whose work involves the creation of extensive series. Part of his unusual strategy is to present and publish the same photos in the context of art photography, in exhibitions and in art books, as well as in the related fields of advertising and journalism. In this way, he transcends the traditional separation of the different types of photography. Thanks to this integrative approach, as well as his style and his choice of themes, he has long served as a model for the younger generation of photographers.
Martin Parr sensitises our subconscious – and once we’ve seen his photographs, we keep on discovering these images over and over again in our daily lives and recognising ourselves within them. The humour in these photographs makes us laugh at ourselves, with a sense of recognition and release.
Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis has always been a sort of performance artist: her life has been one long installation. In the 1970s, she was an aspiring actress waiting tables to make the rent. Then she married her distant cousin, Prince Johannes, the largest landowner in Germany, and overnight became a global sensation, an epic party girl who thought nothing of dressing as Marie Antoinette and throwing three-day blowouts at her 500-room castle. When Johannes died, in 1990, the party not only ended—the balloons all simultaneously popped.
The princess discovered that the prince had made horrendous investment blunders. Broke, swimming in debt, she even faced losing the castle. Pulling back from the public eye, she focused on righting her finances, raising her three children, and devoting herself to Catholicism. (She befriended a local priest . . . who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI.)
Now comes the latest royal metamorphosis, from performance artist to working portraitist. Long a patron of the arts, and a shrewd collector, Princess Gloria recently got the urge to create her own stuff. Naturally, it didn’t take long to land her first commission. The Hotel Chelsea asked her to do a series of pastels of its most famous denizens—from Bob Dylan to Dylan Thomas, Frida Kahlo to Jimi Hendrix. Last week, the hotel unveiled her work, in an abandoned storefront a few doors down the block, and the following day the princess sat down with VF Daily to talk about her new career, plus the difficulty of ears, the reticence of popes, and the problem portraitist John Singer Sargent might have had with Botox. Befitting a downtown artist, the princess arrived 20 minutes late, driving a scooter, with some shaggy-haired dude riding shotgun.
VF Daily: When did you do your first portrait?
Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis: Two years ago. I started with my niece, but only for fun, more like a caricature. My mother said, “Why don’t you try to do somebody else?” My first series, I called it “My Best Friends.” I did all the people who somehow played a role in my life. Alfred Taubman, Countess Beatrice von Hardenberg, Prince Aga Khan, Peter Marino, Alessandra Borghese, Francesca Habsburg, George Condo, André Leon Talley, Quincy Jones, some priests, Jacob Rothschild.
The contacts list in your iPhone must be something else. Do you work every day?
The man in the shop where I was buying my pencils said, “Make sure you draw every day, because you’re going to get better, and it will give you a kick.” And he was right. By doing it every day I am getting better. And I’m having fun. . . . It’s meditative for me.
Do you start each face the same way? With, say, the nose? Or eyes?
In the beginning, I started with the eyes. But now I do the silhouette of the head, and then I do the silhouette of the hair, and then I do the eyebrows because then I know how deep the front [is]. Some people have a large front—for instance, you have all that [hair] in front. Then I do the ears. Some people have the ears that start way above the eyebrow line, or even below the eyes, and that makes a huge difference. If you don’t get that right it will not resemble the person.
Who are your favorites so far?
My favorite is Janis Joplin. I love also very much this lady, Edie Sedgwick. And I love my Bob Dylan. But my all-time favorite is the man here, Jean-Paul Sartre—because of the crooked eyes.
He was cockeyed all right. I was going to ask about the way you do eyes. They’re very big.
In the beginning, they were even bigger. Then I tried to be a little more realistic, but then I thought, If my eyes are big, let them be big. In [Francesco] Clemente’s oils they are very big.
Clemente seems a major influence.
He was here yesterday. And he saw my first series, and he wrote the text for me, last December, for my show at the Villa Borghese in Rome.
Has anyone . . . discouraged you?
No, I was so lucky. My children love it, my mother loves it, my brothers and sisters. And they all love the game that I play. When I finish a drawing, I make a picture with my little camera and I e-mail it and say, “Who might this be?”
No one has been discouraging?
Nobody today does portraits! People are only used to photography, and they are so happily surprised if you do a drawing that resembles them somehow.
Was there any face that was just too difficult?
Yes. There are faces that are impossible to make. [Whispering] Unfortunately, the face liftings, the face jobs, are difficult. Some women lose their expression.
You could go to parties in New York without seeing a single face you could do.
Also, very strange, when they have no personality, you cannot make a picture.
Do you develop a kind of mystical connection with your subjects?
You are very intensively connected with that person for the time you are doing this work. I’ve never had time to concentrate on one person like this, and that’s very nice, especially for these people that have been dead such a long time. . . . Almost mystical. You’re trying to catch something of them.
What are your goals as an artist?
I have a big goal. It is a big dream. It stands in front of me like a huge mountain. I’d like to be able to work with oil. I know I have to be very modest. The brush reacts much more. It doesn’t react like my little crayon.
How does it feel, knowing that because of your name, these pieces might one day be coveted, might soar in value?
What I would like to achieve the most is that people commission me to do their portraits. Because this gives me interaction with people. And as it is a sleeping genre, I’d love to be able to enter it. I mean, the British are fabulous, the British have a huge school, but when you research on the Internet, you find there are very few [portraitists] who are sexy. And I think there needs to be a sexiness, too. In our times we are so spoiled by contemporary art and its sexiness, we cannot go back to the 19th century. It’s dull.
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