Ex_pose: Jeff Koons: A Retrospective / Guggenheim Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum hosts the biggest retrospective to date of the celebrated contemporary artist Jeff Koons. This exhibition, comprising one hundred pieces, ends up in the Biscay capital following an international tour that has taken it to the Whitney Museum in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
One of the exhibition’s Curators, Lucia Agirre, Curator at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, answered our questions via email and gave us an insight into Jeff Koons amazing retrospective.
E.Z. A retrospective always offers a fertile field for re-apprising and re-evaluating an artist’s course and oeuvre. How would you, as one of the curators of this retrospective, define the value of Jeff Koons’ work?
L.A. To me, Jeff Koons’s art could be defined as coherent, unmistakable, structured, profoundly innovative, and awe-inspiring. His output is a statement of self-affirmation and lacks the aura of inaccessibility that surrounds other contemporary works of art. His creations, which are instantly recognizable, appeal to the general public and draw on countless art historical sources, such as Surrealism, Minimalism, Dada, and Pop Art, and his references to well-known archetypes make viewers feel comfortable with their own cultural history. In the same way, his paintings and sculpture objects also invite us to reassert our individuality and flout certain taboos and conventions that box us in, limiting our role in society. Koons uses art as a wake-up call, a driving force of social change.
E.Z. What were the challenges of curating Jeff Koons’s first retrospective in Guggenheim Bilbao?
L.A. Since the Museum opened, the Guggenheim Bilbao has had a very close relationship with Jeff Koons. Therefore the development of the exhibition has been very fluent and therefore the interaction of the Museum spaces and Koons’s works has also been extremely genuine, unaffected.
E.Z. Koons has developed over the years a unique style, easily recognizable. What are the new elements in his latest works presented in this exhibition?
L.A. In the Gazing Balls series, pristine plaster garden furniture or well-known figures such as the Farnese Hercules, become mere vessels or stages for exhibiting bright blue balls made of blown glass that capture the viewers’ attention. These intensely blue gazing balls are an innovation but at the same time relate to some of Koons’s earlier pieces, such as Rabbit (1986), thus providing a new interpretation not only to the new pieces but also the earlier ones.
E.Z. What were your expectations regarding public’s reception and engagement with this retrospective?
Have these expectations been realized so far?
L.A. We hope we have succeeded in presenting Jeff Koons’s work in a coherent and cohesive manner, and trust we can reach each visitor individually and make him/her feel committed to review certain conventions through this artist’s work. It was our intention to present Jeff Koons’s output in a way that shows the innovative but at the same time consistent works that he has been developing in nearly forty years of career.
E.Z. Your favorite work from this retrospective is…
L.A. This is a complicated question! If I have to choose, I will say Puppy first and then Large Vase of Flowers.
Jeff Koons, A Retrospective
June 9 – September 27, 2015 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao