Christie's New York: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 [Lot 0055B], Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
LiteratureH.W.Holzwarth, Jeff Koons,Cologne, 2008 p.204 (another example illustrated in color).
Hana Bank Membership Magazine, v.114,Summer, 2014,pp.4 and 5 (another example illustrated in color).
N. Wolfe, ed., Tory Burch: In Color, New York, 2014 p.100 (another example illustrated in color).
J. Kim, "A Magician of Creation and Destruction," Art, August 2014 (another ...More...example illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons is the undisputed champion of controversy. For decades, his work and his methods have been a lightning rod. When iconic Rabbit (1986) sold for a record $91 million on May 15, 2019, the torch and pitchfork crowd came out en masse. Christie’s acknowledged the divisiveness in their pre-sale advertisement titled, “Rabbit by Jeff Koons — a chance to own the controversy,” then, subsequently tagged on an after-sale byline drawing the battlelines: “Vacuous, disposable and deathless. Exuberant, celebratory and perfect.” New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, decidedly less ambivalent, praised Rabbit as “the perfect work of art for its moment…that continues to speak to us.” Rabbit would provide the springboard to Koons’ international recognition and it is the work that prefigures his most ambitious and beloved series, Celebration; an ambitious collection of over thirty monumental sculptures and paintings that pay tribute to life’s big milestones: birthdays, marriage, parentage. It commenced in 1993, continued for ten years, and nearly bankrupted Koons with cost overruns and sundry delays that included Koons’ uncompromising vision for several sculptures placed on hold until the technology was in place to accomplish the task. Smooth Egg with Bow is a centerpiece of that lauded body of work, the Celebration series.
Standing nearly seven feet tall, Smooth Egg with Bow is a bold, contoured, reflective surface polished to mirror perfection. Crafted from hyper-reflective steel, it is three feet of lavishly looped ribbon atop a four by six-foot egg; a dazzling eye-candy transformed into something of a fetish. Yet the more lasting impression is one of sheer wonderment at the fastidious perfection, precision and unrelenting attention to exactitude. This is a masterwork. When you hear Koons talk about the technical skill it required, he makes it clear it was the culmination of years of laborious research, development, and groundbreaking technical advances. Consider that each egg took a crew of five working full-time an entire year to make and to achieve that glossy-colored, perfect, reflective surface, which required a pain-staking application of layer upon layer of a fine mist consisting of infinitesimal small lacquer particles. Koons has been resoundingly criticized by many for employing a small army of artist-workers to churn out products designed by him. Yet he has been transparent, and with a shrug and nod to Warhol and The Factory admonishes anyone that cares to carp. “I’m basically an idea person. I’m not physically involved in the production.” What is clear, is that Smooth Egg with Bow could not have been fabricated any other way. It required a team of talented and knowledgeable artisans and technicians to create a work of this complexity. But it also required Koons’ total authorial control over the work and his fastidious attention to realizing a seamless finish of a work such as this. We can laugh about the well-known story of Koons in earlier times, obsessively polishing the glass vitrines of his vacuum cleaners every morning before the gallery opened to remove all human traces. But it reflects the traits of a personality type; and it explains the origin of such a creation of this degree of perfection.
Koons has stated that the reflective brilliance of stainless steel polished to a mirror quality finish was intoxicating for him and that the bright, shiny works crafted from hyper-reflective steel most accurately reflect his ever-present optimism that “people just wanted to be a part of that personality”. Twenty years ago, he saw the surface reflections as affirmations of ourselves, a wishful thought that might seem a little passé in an era of instant gratification ‘selfies’ and the many social media venues. But as the hour-long lines awaiting entrance to Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” attest, people are invariably drawn to art when offered an interactive, immersive experience. And so, it is for Smooth Egg with Bow. Whether installed in a collector’s home, a corporate foyer, or the white box of a contemporary gallery, it is an interactive sculpture, colorful, shiny and conspicuous. It requires but a modicum of puckish humor that Koons would appreciate to imagine it installed in the Mona Lisa room at the Louvre in time to greet the morning arrivals.
Jeff Koons with Cracked Egg (1994-2006)
“Jeff Koons: Celebration”, exhibition at Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin 2008-2009
“Tulips” (1995-2004), from the Celebration series, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 80 x 180 x 205 in. The Broad, Los Angeles
“Rabbit” (1986) stainless steel, 41 x 19 x 12 in. Sold on 14 May 2019 for $91,075,000 USD
- In 2019, Koons’ broke the record for most expensive living artist (previously held by David Hockney), when Rabbit sold for over $91M.
- Works comparable to Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet) from the Celebration series have sold for up to $58M. Cracked Egg (Magenta), a similar subject, scale, and color, sold in 2014 for over $23.4M.
- The graph prepared by Art Market Research shows that in the past 10 years, sculptures by Koons have increased at a 12.5% annual rate of return.
Top Results at Auction
Comparable Sculptures Sold at Auction
- Same series (Celebration), different edition
- Same magenta color
- Sold for over $23.4M six years ago
- Same series (Celebration), shared magenta color
- Different edition, without the all-over highly reflective finish of the Smooth Eggs
- Same series (Celebration), different edition
- Shared magenta color
- Sold for over $5.4M at auction more than 10 years ago, and Koons’ market has grown significantly since then