JEFFKOONS: The Inflatables are really where I think my history as an artist begins.
NARRATOR: Koons made these vinyl works—the Inflatables—soon after his arrival in New York in 1977.
JK: When I came across these brightly colored vinyl inflatables I realized that they’re anthropomorphic. They’re like us. We’re like balloons. We inhale and we’re a symbol of optimism. We exhale, it’s a symbol of death. I loved the sexual charge, the colors of these inflatables. There were some more masculine; they would have a long stem, very phallic in shape. Others were feminine. They would be more circular.
NARRATOR: Koons knew that he wanted to be an artist from a young age. He went to art school in Baltimore and Chicago, painting subjects drawn from his dreams or his imagination. After he moved to New York in the late 1970s, he began wanting to make more “objective” art, using imagery everyone could relate to.
SR: One way that he did that was to engage the readymade in his work. The readymade of course is an art historical term that we associate with Marcel Duchamp’s work from the nineteen-teens from when he first took objects like a bottle rack or a urinal, and declared them as sculpture. This was a very inspiring and influential concept to Koons as he looked to the everyday world for the subject of his art. His infatuation, in a way, with the found object and the different ways that he can filter it in his art is one of the most interesting threads in this exhibition.