Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Audio Guide Playlist

This audio guide features commentary by artist Jeff Koons, Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney's Nancy and Steve Crown Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs, Michelle Kuo, editor of Artforum magazine, and Amy Adler, the Emily Kempin Professor at New York University Law School.

NARRATOR: The sculpture in the middle of the room is a stainless steel cast of a toy train. The original object was a collectible container for Jim Beam bourbon.

JEFF KOONS: I was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York and I was around 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue and there was a liquor store. In the window―this glass window―was a Jim Beam J.B. Turner train. There were seven cars and they were made out of porcelain and plastic and they were on plastic track, and they were all lined up and there were seven fifths of bourbon.

I thought, "This would be fantastic to take this object that's a readymade and to transform it into a metal." I thought right away it would be beautiful in stainless steel, and to bring it to a mirror polish so it'd be luxurious. It would be intoxicating to look at. You look at it and the room’s upside down, it's reflective.

NARRATOR: Koons wanted his sculpture—like its model—to contain bourbon.

JK: But how would I get the liquor? How would I maintain the liquor in doing it? Because I realized that the liquor was the soul to the piece. I thought, well, if I acquire this and I cast it into the steel and I polish it, I could take the train back to Jim Beam, they could fill it up and put this seal, the tax stamp seal, back on the piece, and that's the interface to the soul.

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