Description: signed, dated 1988 and numbered 1/3 on the underside porcelain
Dimensions: 45 1/2 x 27 x 27 in. 115.6 x 68.6 x 68.6 cm.
Exhibited: San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, December 1992 - October 1993, cat. no. 44, pl. 42, illustrated in color
Literature: Angelika Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pl. 8, p. 106, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown)
Jeff Koons and Robert Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 101, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown)
Exh Cat., Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum (and traveling), Jeff Koons: Retrospective, 1992, p. 73, illustrated in color (Amsterdam and Stuttgart) and illustrated in color on the cover and pl. 39, p. 57 (Aarhaus) (another example)
Provenance: Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1989
Notes: This work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.
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PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
Jeff Koons' series of large polychrome wood and porcelain sculptures titled Banality demonstrates his ability to create contemporary objects of desire; seductively bizarre and deeply coveted. Naked, from 1988 is an outstanding example of Koons' satirical commentary on late twentieth century society and experience. The Banality series included toy-inspired objects, slightly altered and enlarged to abnormal size. Like much of Koons work, these pieces have sexual connotations that are sometimes amusing and at other times unsettling. The present work portrays two young children naked in an embrace recalling the biblical story of Adam and Eve. In place of an apple, a small bouquet of flowers is the forbidden fruit, primarily a large red anthurium with a phallic yellow stamen that the two children gaze curiously toward. There is a Rococo exaggeration of charm and seductive grace yet there is also a tense realization for the viewer that the two figures are too young to be viewed in this manner. Jim Lewis states, "few things in this world are more perplexing, even astonishing, that other people's desires, especially when the objects toward which they're directed don't accord with one's own choices; and few things are more disturbing than those desires enlarged to the point where they fill one's field of vision." (Exh. Cat., San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, Jeff Koons, 1992, p. 16) Koons' work has often been criticized for being pornographic; however, his work is the illustration of desire rather than the impetus for it. In the Banality series, Koons creates strange combinations of opposites, in particular, the wedding of "high" and "low" through choice of subject and technique. Like Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol before him, Koons employs everyday objects as the impetus for his art, but he chooses objects that are already approaching art and transforms them. Koons executes his works to the standards of the Renaissance masters demanding utter perfection from his studio of artisans and craftspeople. The pain-staking efforts to master traditional materials in unprecedented scale and therefore complexity set Koons apart. Naked and other works of the series, such as Pink Panther, and Popples, have links to an adolescent pre-occupation with sex, and as John Caldwell noted, "[focus] on modern life as it is experienced in childhood and adolescence." (Exh. Cat., Ibid., 1992, p. 13) Naked speaks of all these qualities: technical excellence, common subject matter, and intriguingly dubitable intent. Koons makes a display of the object's own artifice, of its own "uselessness" as a utilitarian object, while simultaneously reveling in the luxury of the object's craftsmanship. Koons describes his Banality series in an interview with Anthony Haden-Guest, "Banality was about communicating to the bourgeois class. I wanted to remove their guilt and shame about the banality that motivates them and which they respond to...to embrace their own history so that they can move on and actually create a new upper class instead of having culture debase them." (Angelika Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 28) Just as the children depicted in this work stand nude before the viewer, Koons has also nakedly exposed the viewers to themselves.