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Activities

These activities focus on works of art in the Whitney’s collection and special exhibitions. Through discussion, research, art making, and writing activities, we hope to encourage close looking, foster conversation between students, and connect artwork to classroom learning. Learn about our four artist-centered themes.

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ON DISPLAY

Research and discuss displays of brand new objects

In New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; Double-Decker (1981–87), Koons displays actual vacuum cleaners stacked on two levels in a plexiglass vitrine, as if they were for sale on a showroom floor. The plexiglass case is also similar to a vitrine that displays precious objects in a museum. For Koons, these readymade vacuum cleaners recall the shiny, new Hoover vacuums that door-to-door salesmen would sell to his mother during the 1950s. Koons also refers to childhood memories of in his father’s home décor store, Henry J. Koons Interiors, where brand new household objects were displayed to entice consumers and tempt their aspirations for newness, status, and perfection.

With your students, view and discuss Koons’s sculpture, New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; Double-Decker, 1981–87. Koons did not make these vacuum cleaners but he chose how to display them. He sealed the pristine vacuum cleaners in the case and has said that if they were ever used, the sculpture would be destroyed. Why do students think that Koons chose to display the vacuum cleaners in the vitrine? How is Koons making us look at the vacuum cleaners in a new way?

a. Which contemporary consumer products are your students excited about? Which products represent a state of perfection or status to them? Can they imagine looking back at these objects ten or twenty years from now?

b. If your students chose a set of brand new contemporary products to display, what would they choose? Why? How many would they choose to display? What color(s) would they be? How would they arrange these objects?

c. Koons was inspired by the displays of furniture and household objects in the showroom of his father’s home décor store in the 1950s. A contemporary example would be the displays of home products and appliances at Ikea stores. Ask your students to explore store windows, product websites, or TV advertisements for inspiration for their reimagined display. Have them use web or magazine images to make a presentation of their chosen products. View and discuss students’ presentations. What products did they choose? Why?