Jeff Koons on The New

Jeff Koons discusses his series The New, included in Jeff Koons a Retrospective (June 27–October 19, 2014).

Jeff Koons: You know, one of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about the vacuum cleaner pieces, the wet/dry that we’re looking at here—it’s anthropomorphic. If you look at these nozzles, I mean it’s a breathing machine, so it’s like us with lungs. But also the different aspects of it can be quite kind of sexual too. They can be like limbs or kind of like sexual organs. But there’s something that’s there that’s tied to our being, our physical being.


They’re kind of like family units, so this piece could be like twins, you know identical twins. Another piece like the tripledecker, that could be a family unit, maybe that’s the father below and then the mother and the child. It’s almost like a Poppa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear. Or here, the four upright convertibles, they could be all kind of masculine, or you could look at them and maybe it’s not masculine but actually feminine, with maybe the vacuum cleaner bag could actually be a womb, instead of kind like a sack. 


So they take on different aspects of anthropomorphic qualities.  Or in the back there’s a piece with the rug shampooers lying down. And that always reminded me very much like an Egyptian type of sarcophagus, laid out very tomblike.


For me The New is, as an artist, kind of a maturing work. It’s work that is dealing with the external world, with everyday life, with readymades. And I’m trying to bring something to the table and to bring something which is quite ephemeral and very ethereal, the aspect of newness. That something can display its integrity of birth.


The piece that I’m beside right now, this is my first double-decker. And so you know it’s great after all these decades to be looking at the piece, and to realize that what I’m really interested in as an artist, what my kind of adventure, my journey’s been in art, I really feel today my interests and the interests in the past are still present. And I look here and I see on the side “WET DRY,” I mean that’s philosophy. That’s either/or. That’s being and nothingness. And it’s really about a philosophical take, and about what it means to be a human being—inside, outside. And that’s what art really is. It’s a dialogue about internal life and external life and how these two things balance and interact together. And that’s what describes our lives as human beings.