Description: B. 1955
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USHERING IN BANALITY
38 x 62 x 30 in. 96.5 x 157.5 x 76.2 cm.
signed and dated on the underside
Executed in 1988, this work is number two from an edition of three and one artist's proof.
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1989)
Sotheby's, New York, November 14, 2001, lot 40
New York, Sonnabend Gallery; Cologne, Max Hetzler; Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, Banality, November 1988 - January 1989 (another example)
New York, C&M Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, April - June 2004, pl. no. 23, illustrated in color
Octavio Zaya, "Sobre Jeff Koons y los signos de nuestro tiempo", Balcon, March, 1988, pp. 55-59, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie International, 1988, p. 178, illustration in color of another example
Nancy Spector, "Carnegie International", Contemporanea, January 1989, p. 105, illustrated in color
Lawrence Chua, "Jeff Koons", Flash Art, January 1989, p. 113, illustrated in color
Thomas Kellein, "Mit dem Fernrohr", Kunsthalle Basel 1989, January 1989, p. 1, illustrated
Dan Cameron, "Soho", Horn of Plenty, January 14, 1989, p. 1, illustrated
Klaus Kertess, "Bad", Parkett 19, Zurich, 1989, p. 59, illustrated in color
Jeff Koons, "Exploitation", Defunct!, February 1, 1989, p. 4, illustrated
Stuart Morgan, "Jeff Koons's Fun", Artscribe, March 1, 1989, p. 47, illustrated in color
Daniel Pinchbeck, "Jeff Koons", Splash, May 1989, n.p., illustrated in color
Hunter Drohojowska, "Stop Making Sense", ART news, October 1989, pp. 146-147, illustrated in color
"Jeff Koons - The Power of Seduction", New Art International, January, 1990, pp. 48-53, illustrated
Eva Karcher, "Die Absahner", Forbes, March 3, 1990, pp. 260-266, illustrated
Wolfgang Max Faust, "Kunst mit Kitsch", Art, September 1, 1990, pp. 4 and 36, twice illustrated in color
Peter Schjeldahl, "Rembrandt, Jeff Koons Ja Kaikki Muut", Taide, December 1, 1990, pp. 22-25, illustrated
Angelika Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pp. 104-105, illustrated in color
Anthony d'Offay, ed., The Jeff Koons Handbook, New York, 1992, pp. 102-103, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jeff Koons, 1992, pl. 40, illustrated in color (another example)
Exh. Cat., Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Jeff Koons, 1992, p. 55, illustrated in color (another example)
David Bonetti, "Koons is Ushering in Banality", San Francisco Examiner, December 11, 1992, p. D1, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Jeff Koons, 1993, p. 63, illustrated in color (another example)
Nikolai B. Forstbauer, "Kunst als Verfuhrung: Die Stuttgarter Staatsgalerie zeigt eine Werkschau von Jeff Koons", Stuttgarter Nachrichten, March 13, 1993, illustrated on the cover
Michael Corris, "Jeff Koons: In the Heat of Nowhere", Art and Text, May 1, 1993, p. 50, illustrated in color
Lars Morell, "Jeff Koons Interview: The Political Value of Art", Skala, June, 1993, pp. 38-41, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Athens, School of Fine Art, Everything That's Interesting Is New: The Dakis Joannou Collection, 1996, p. 155, illustrated in color (another example)Athens, Deste Foundation's Centre for Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, a Millenium Celebration - Works from the Dakis Joannou Collection 1979 - 1999, 1999
In 1988 Jeff Koons produced what is still recognized as his most outstanding body of work, a series of large polychromed wood and porcelain sculptures and ornately framed mirrors which he titled Banality. The series was, at the time, his most elaborate and dedicated response to the mechanics and dynamics of appropriation. Koons had commissioned craftsmen in the Dolomites to execute his porcelain and polychromed wood works, and the results, when exhibited for the first time in 1988 at Galerie Max Hetzler in Cologne, Donald Young in Chicago and Sonnabend in New York, were staggering.
Ushering in Banality stands as the signature motif for the entire series as it is the only work which includes the word ``banality'' in its title. For Koons, the pig acts as the ultimate signifier of banality, personifying the notion in general and also in particular reference to the artist himself: "I was there with two pigs -- a big one and a little one -- so it was like breeding banality. But I wanted to debase myself and call myself a pig, before the viewer had a chance to, so that they could only think more of me in the future." (as quoted in Exh. Cat., Paris, Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Jeff Koons, September -- November 1997, n.p.)
The sculpture depicts an enormous and beribboned swine being escorted by two winged putti in yellow and blue robes. A contemporary-clad little boy, in a devilish red and black ski-suit (it has been suggested that this figure is a portrait of the artist as a child) shoves the procession onward, pushing forcefully from behind while seemingly kissing the pig's bottom. The little boy, a self-portrait of the artist as a child metaphorically and figuratively, introduces or literally pushes the notion of banality onto the viewer's consciousness, utilizing it a "placeholder" not only for the show Banality but for the entire Koons oeuvre. The work has a purposefully distinct eighteenth-century Bavarian charm and feel, which may be found in the exaggeration of motif; in the seductive surface and chirpily pretty palette; in the ideogrammatic faces and heightened expressions of the children. It is a puzzling image, bizarre in its collage of kitsch and the everyday with a certain rococo flair for exacting and expert technical realization.
This strange combination of opposites, the wedding of "high" and "low" through subject and technique is one of the most intoxicating elements of Koons' work, though perhaps not the real issue. Like Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol before him, Koons is concerned with the transformation of everyday objects into art and takes issue with such post-modern notions as high and low culture, context, and commoditization of art -- but with Koons there is more. Koons executes his works to the standards of the Renaissance masters demanding utter perfection from his studio of artisans and craftspeople....there is no factory line-up like Warhol, no moment of deeply searched-for inspiration that ends with a shout of "Eureka!" and voila...a urinal is philosophically transformed into a fountain, changing the course of art-history forever. The pain-staking efforts to master traditional materials in unprecedented scale and therefore complexity set Koons apart from his immediate art-historical ancestors. Still, there is more. With Koons there is always the lingering question of irony versus sincerity; what is the intent of the artist? Is he serious or is there an element of mockery? Honestly, it could go either way; hence, both the appeal and uproar generated by his work.
Ushering in Banality speaks of all of these qualities: technical excellence, common subject matter, 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. Ushering in Banality stands as a totem in Koons' oeuvre in terms of the artist's ability to create contemporary objects of desire; seductively bizarre and deeply coveted. This is one of the most outstanding examples of Koons' satirical commentary on late twentieth-century society and experience.