36 Hours of Jeff Koons at The Whitney

Inflatable Flower and Bunny, a cheeky take on minimalist work NYC galleries showcased in the 1970s

Inflatable Flower and Bunny, a cheeky take on minimalist work NYC galleries showcased in the 1970s

It’s the last 36 hours, and the Whitney is taking it’s Jeff Koons retrospective out with a bang – all day, all night fun-filled wonder on all four floors, letting the crowds take in his irreverent porcelains, 70s inflatables, whimsical fool-the-eye aluminum sculptures, and giant billboards. It’s the first proper retrospective that Koons has had in New York and the last show to be mounted on Madison Avenue before the Whitney moves to the High Line.

Any day of the week, lines of art-seekers have snaked out the door of the Whitney, past the pretzel carts on Madison and around the corner along 75th Street, waiting for admission into this no-holes-barred finale.

The curators and crew have done a spectacular job with the installation – no mean feat, since those big bulbous “inflatables” on the top floor are really highly polished, super-heavy hunks of stainless steel. Oh, and don’t get any fingerprints or scratches on the highly polished surfaces…it will break the illusion that these are just Mylar balloons!

Ten-ton stainless steel Balloon Dog with Moon (Light Pink) (1994-2000)

Ten-ton stainless steel Balloon Dog with Moon (Light Pink) (1994-2000)

The show starts strong on the second floor with a light-filled room of recreated works from the late Seventies – actually inflatable flowers, bunnies, and what-not. Everything uses angled mirrors.

You can’t get the joke unless you trod the floors of those West Broadway galleries in Soho way back then and saw the Minimalists and Earth Works guys in full force.Think Barry Le Va, Heizer, and Smithson who arranged rocks or dirt in a few square feet of gallery space and added a mirror or two to make a statement about nature, art, reflection (i.e. art viewing), and formal criticism inside the art world.

Koons turns all this on its head with silly found inflatables and similarly formalist presentation. It’s kitchen sponges instead of Richard Long’s rocks! Thanks, Whitney and Mr. Koons, for giving us this walk down memory lane.

The main space on Floor 2 is devoted to a spectacular low-light installation of favorite Koons pieces from the early Eighties. Several double-decker and triple-decker vitrines house illuminated and never-used Hoover vacuum cleaners, which Koons assembled to illustrate the feeling of “newness” in American society.

Billboard and illuminated Hoover vacuum cleaners, the essence of “newness” from 1983

Billboard and illuminated Hoover vacuum cleaners, the essence of “newness” from 1983

It’s a beautiful, magical room dominated by a gigantic billboard on The New, all of it from his first window-display installation on 14th Street and Fifth, when Marcia Tucker had her New Museum there back in 1983, just before the move to Soho.

Speaking of moves, it seems fitting to come full circle – spectacular early works by Mr. Koons that debuted on 14th Street as the finale to the Whitney’s long run on Madison Avenue, just prior to its move back to its new 14th Street neighborhood.

Missed the show? Take a look on our Flickr feed.

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