Jeff Koons: A Retrospective

Solo en Inglès

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.

Jeff Koons, Doctor Dunkenstein, 1985

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Narrator: This poster of Darrell Griffith—also known as Dunkenstein—is one of several framed Nike posters that appeared in Koons’s 1985 exhibition, Equilibrium. Koons compares the ball players to “Sirens”—mythological figures who sing so beautifully that they lure sailors to crash on a rocky shore. For the artist, the sports stars have achieved a state as perfect as the one offered by the Equilibrium Tanks. The basketball players’ fame is like the Siren’s song, tempting young men—especially African Americans—to try to use sports to achieve fame, fortune, and the “ultimate state” of stardom. Koons sees this as a parallel to the art world.

Jeff Koons: I was trying to show with the Sirens, the great deceivers. They were really stand-ins for all the contemporary artists at that time, that are positioning themselves as if they've achieved something. That really they're just using art as a form of social mobility. Using it as social mobility, the way maybe other people at times have used sports or other activities for social mobility.

A photograph of a man in a lab coat holding a basketball cut in half and standing on a pile of basketballs.

Narrator: This poster of Darrell Griffith—also known as Dunkenstein—is one of several framed Nike posters that appeared in Koons’s 1985 exhibition, Equilibrium. Koons compares the ball players to “Sirens”—mythological figures who sing so beautifully that they lure sailors to crash on a rocky shore. For the artist, the sports stars have achieved a state as perfect as the one offered by the Equilibrium Tanks. The basketball players’ fame is like the Siren’s song, tempting young men—especially African Americans—to try to use sports to achieve fame, fortune, and the “ultimate state” of stardom. Koons sees this as a parallel to the art world.

Jeff Koons: I was trying to show with the Sirens, the great deceivers. They were really stand-ins for all the contemporary artists at that time, that are positioning themselves as if they've achieved something. That really they're just using art as a form of social mobility. Using it as social mobility, the way maybe other people at times have used sports or other activities for social mobility.


Jeff Koons, Dr. Dunkenstein, 1985. Framed Nike poster; 45 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (115.6 x 80 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner P. 2011.216. © Jeff Koons