Jeff Koons – the most expensive American artist about money and career

What should a successful artist be like? Is he talented? It’s possible. Notorious – if possible, rich – necessarily. The most “expensive” American artist Jeff Koons spoke about money and career.

“I’m already over sixty, and I still love toys! Does this seem strange to you? I’m sure that many adults wouldn’t mind playing because they shell out millions for my plastic objects and colorful glass pieces! Why do I make inflatable bunnies and big dolls? They allow me to be understood by a large number of people with whom I want to communicate. The secret to success is working with strong emotions, and they are associated with sex and power. I think Freud said that people are always laughing at government, sex, and rectal waste. These topics occupy everyone without exception. That’s why the public responds to my work. They hate me, they adore me, but most importantly, they react to me.

In an era of information overdose and an abundance of disasters, when every day you see suffering, pain, and blood on television (these sights simply dull sensitivity), reaction is the most valuable thing. In the 1980s everyone was talking about my baroque steel busts, in the 1990s I was criticized for the pornographic series “Made in Heaven”, and everyone was always interested in the details of my personal life. Such is the world!

I consider myself a happy person. A wonderful wife and five children are waiting for me at home. The eldest daughter, a critic for Gourmet magazine, is already in her twenties, and the youngest son was recently born. My studio, located in Chelsea, New York, employs a group of young and talented professionals. This is my “dream factory”, a phenomenon once introduced into artistic practice by the great Andy Warhol. This is where we create our works of art. I start every day with a walk around the workshop; there are several “departments” in it. In the computer graphics department, my sketches are reproduced in digital form before they become reality. In the painting department, employees reproduce the paintings piece by piece, following my instructions. Next, plastic or metal masterpieces are born, and in the laboratory, we compare colors and shapes. Everything is alive, seething and delivering great pleasure. Even when we “copy” objects of everyday life, we want them to surpass reality in beauty.

The artistic credo “believe in yourself and follow your interests” did not come to me right away. As a child, I helped my father in his furniture store. And one day he hung his drawings there. They were bought! Money, and most importantly, the feeling of being a young businessman gave me extraordinary pleasure. I don’t understand artists who, out of pure coquetry, hide behind phrases like: “Art should not be material, it is the disinterested fruit of intellectual suffering!” What’s wrong with knowing how to make money? When you have money, you can invest it in art. The results will be obvious.

In my youth, I sold not only my works but also newspapers and sweets! At the age of 21, he graduated from the Art Institute in Maryland. It doesn’t matter what or how we studied, the main thing is that we Americans were taught to believe in ourselves. After college, there wasn’t enough money for paints, not to mention expensive materials, so I went to work as a broker on the stock exchange. The stock exchange taught me insight and the ability to understand psychology. And without this, creative activity is impossible. After all, the purpose of art is communication, communication with people.

When I moved to New York in the late 1970s, funds were still tight, and I had to sell admission tickets to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Then I looked for sponsors, did marketing, saved money, and painted at the same time. He spent his savings on works exhibited in 1980 at the New Museum of Modern Art on Broadway. We showed The New perspex objects, the pre-new vacuum cleaners, and inflatable rubber flowers. Eight years later, for the Banality series, I changed my technique and started working with porcelain. For this purpose, he hired craftsmen from Germany and Italy who were fluent in the material.

In 1990, at the Venice Biennale, I brought the “Made in Heaven” series, in which I captured myself and my wife Cicciolina in giant color photographs. The sexual context of the works caused scandals in Europe and America. Soon followed a divorce from his wife, who had acted in porn films before marriage. This attracted public attention to my personal life, I began to hide from journalists, did not give interviews, and did not participate in exhibitions. If an artist knows his business and works conscientiously, sooner or later he will get a chance. Every day I say, “Today is your day, Jeff. You will create a precious work…”

To my surprise, the seven-year break did not affect my popularity or the cost of my work. In 1997, the record amount from their sales was 250 thousand dollars. And after a year and a half, I received about 1 million dollars for porcelain figurines. In 1999, exhibitions took place first at the Sonnabend gallery in New York, then in Berlin with Max Hetzler; the Easyfun series was shown at the Guggenheim Museum. That same year, Christie’s sold my Pink Panther for $1.8 million. Until now, my greatest financial success was Michael Jackson, which sold for $5.1 million; however, in 2004, another of my works was bought for 14.5 million.

When I arrived in New York in 1976, no one had yet thought about the art market. Today, a younger generation of artists complain that the New York market is already divided. If an artist knows his business and works conscientiously, then sooner or later he will have a chance. Every time I come to the workshop, I tell myself: “Today is your day, you will be lucky and you will create your most precious work!” 

American artist and sculptor Jeff Koons was born in 1955. Some call him “the king of kitsch” and “the creator of banalities”, others call him one of the key contemporary artists. The most scandalous is the series “Made in Heaven” (1990), in which the artist candidly depicted himself and his then-wife, porn star Ilona Staller (Cicciolina). And Koons officially married the ugly woman, seemingly only so that Puritan America and Catholic Italy would not veto his work… The series “Luxury and Degradation” is considered the most interesting. Among the famous works is “Puppy” in Bilbao: a thirteen-meter sculpture of flowers placed on a metal structure.

In 2007, Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk paid $23.6 million for Koons’ sculpture “Hanging Heart (Purple).” He wears perfectly tailored suits in the image of American presidents and has seven children and two grandchildren. One of the richest contemporary artists in America is also famous for his litigation. Someone is suing Koons, and he is suing someone.

Jeff Koons exhibitions are scheduled for many years in advance. He has held retrospectives at the Pompidou Center and exhibitions in major museums from Buenos Aires to New York. The works of Jeff Koons, like himself, have been to Moscow several times. As a designer, Koons designed gift containers for champagne, tuned a BMW Art Car with appliqué, decorated Lady Gaga’s album, worked on the image of the H&M flagship store, collaborated with the French porcelain house Bernardaud, etc.

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