Jeff Koons, New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue; Double-Decker, 1981–87. Vacuum cleaners, plexiglass, and fluorescent lights, 116 × 41 × 28 in. (294.6 × 104.1 × 71.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from The Sondra and Charles Gilman Jr. Foundation Inc. and the Painting and Sculpture Committee 89.30a-v
JEFFKOONS: My father was an interior decorator, so I grew up around objects being displayed. And I think that influenced me very much, and that’s how I could envision and make a work like this.
I’ve always enjoyed display. And the New Hoover Convertibles, Double-decker, it’s just displaying itself. It’s like an individual displaying themselves. My work I believe is always directed toward what it means to be alive, what it means to be a human being in the world we live. And these are breathing machines. They are like individuals. And the first thing that we do when we come into this world to be alive is to breathe. I also enjoy the sexual quality of the work where some vacuum cleaners may read more feminine, other more masculine. I’ve created some double deckers, it’s almost like a family unit, like a momma bear, a poppa bear, and a baby bear.
I think the work has a form of visual beauty, but I think that the work’s really more about a philosophical and psychological ideal. These vacuums—these vacuum cleaners are like eternal virgins. They’re brand new. The object has its greatest amount of integrity before it ever participates in the world. Their cords are wrapped up just as they came out of the box. They’ve never been turned on. They’re never participated.
I’ve always kind of enjoyed the idea of showing Hoover vacuum cleaners. When I grew up there were still people coming door to door selling vacuum cleaners. And I felt that I was kind of doing that with my artwork. I was a young artist saying, look here, I have something, and I’d like to participate. I’d like to get my foot in the door.