There’s still one more week for art lovers to see the two-part Jeff Koons exhibit in Frankfurt, being held on both sides of the Main at Schirn Kunsthalle and Liebieghaus.
The Schirn houses a few dozen paintings by the artist, spanning about the last 20 years of his career. There’s everything from some early whiskey-ad paintings, to his Popeye series, Hulk Elvis series – which I correctly guessed was so named in allusion to Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis” paintings, both in reference to the idea of repetition and the particular pose both subjects take in the two series – and finally a few new, never-before-shown paintings based on works from antiquity. A word of advice though – it wouldn’t be the best exhibit to take someone on a first date. There are many of the large paintings which are, shall we say, Georgia-Keefe-esque, although perhaps in an abstract-enough way that most people don’t notice. At least I hope that 10-year-old kid staring at one of the works didn’t know what he was looking at. And that’s in the main room, not the alcove tucked away and clearly marked “only suitable for adults.”
Personally I preferred the sculpture collection, which was displayed throughout all the galleries of Liebieghaus, a museum which specializes in sculpture from Ancient Egypt right up through the 19th century. The pieces by Koons are literally embedded in these other exhibits, providing an interesting context and contrast for each work. The famous sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles the chimpanzee sits among sarcophagi from antiquity with matching dark, kohl-rimmed eyes. A large sculpture with two balloon Hulk figures in iron carrying an ancient Japanese bell is shown among other, truly ancient treasures from Asia. And so on, right up through the medieval and renaissance galleries – where there are expertly-carved and painted wooden sculptures from Koons’ “banality” series – and the more modern pieces in the top-floor “studio” of the museum, where you can find some of the stainless steel readymades Jeff Koons has made in reference to one of his other idols, Marcel Duchamp. All in all, a leisurely stroll and scavenger-hunt of sorts through the museum to find all the pieces makes for a very interesting and engaging experience of the art.
The only minor problem with the exhibits, in my opinion, is the lack of any signage or description of the pieces and their significance to the artist. In many cases there was not even any translation of the titles of the works, which left quite a few of the Germans I saw there scratching their heads. There is an audio tour, but nothing to help you just get a brief contextualization of each piece of art for those of us who don’t like audio tours. On the plus side, this led me to do a little bit of research and reading on the pieces I liked on my own, when I returned home.
Get a little preview of the show and a few words from the artist himself in the “trailer” video below:
Or you can see a longer video interview with Jeff Koons from the exhibits here.