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Bear and Policeman
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Bear and Policeman
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About the item

Simultaneously innocent and threatening, Jeff Koonss monumental Bear and Policeman from his 1988 Banality serves as an arresting tribute to the radical, irreverent, and unparalleled creativity of his artistic practice. The unrivaled successor to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, Koons continues the legacy of juxtaposing ordinary objects and recognizable mainstream imagery in unprecedented compositions as a means of exploring how consumerist culture continues to evolve. Executed in the heyday of the 1980s, at the height of consumerist consumption and excess, the present work beautifully exemplifies the artists brilliant collision of hackneyed popular culture with the refinement of high art that has come to define his incomparable body of work. Bear and Policeman has been included in nearly every major international survey of Koonss output over the past quarter century, including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Centre Pompidou, Musée national dart modern in Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, among many others. Brilliantly conflating the mundane with the surreal, Bear and Policeman endures as a lasting archetype from one of todays most original, iconoclastic, and important artists. A burly anthropomorphized bear leers down at his companion, a comparatively diminutive policeman. Dressed irreverently in a candy-striped t-shirt accented by a large yellow bow tie, the bear initially suggests playfulness, warmth, and a familiar amusement as if from a cartoon; however, the bears lascivious consideration of the typically adorned British policeman indicates a more sinister relationship between these two figures. Furthermore, the bear looms over the policeman, his left paw wrapped tenderly yet authoritatively around his companions shoulder, and the right grabbing at his whistle, and quite literally drawing the man into his embrace. By contrast, the policeman gazes wonderingly up at the bear, his left hand tucked behind his back in a deferential pose, his right demurely pressed to his middle. Here, Koons has reversed the power structure of these two figures, endowing the comical cartoon-like bear with authority over his counterpart who exemplifies power and the law. Despite what at first appears to be a friendly exchange between these two, there is an underlying tenor that suggests a more illicit liaison, an unexpected and hilarious transgression that nevertheless forces the viewer to confront his or her own base desires and fears.\nIn 1988, Jeff Koons unveiled a series of twenty new sculptures in three concurrent shows at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York, Galerie Max Hetzler in Cologne, and Donald Young Gallery in Chicago. Each exhibition featured the complete body of twenty works from Banality, all of which had been executed in an edition of three, making the simultaneous shows possible. Although Banality provoked controversy, Koons maintains that his modus operandi was never guided by provocation; rather, acceptance is imperative to Koons. His vocabulary is characterized by profound affirmation, buoying viewers of his work to embrace their past and accept an iconography of optimism irrespective of socially accepted criteria of good taste: I was using banality to communicate that the things we have in our history are perfect. No matter what they are theyre perfect. They cant be anything else but perfect. Its our past and its our being, the things that we respond to, and theyre perfect. And I used it to remove judgment and to remove the type of hierarchy that exists. I dont like to use the word kitsch, because kitsch is automatically making a judgment about something. I always saw banality as a little freer than that. (The artist cited in Norman Rosenthal, Jeff Koons: Conversations with Norman Rosenthal, London, 2014, p. 140) Arguing for the appreciation of mass-appeal imagery, Koons traffics in the arbitrary distinctions between high and low art, positioning his sculptures in the uncharted territory between the predetermined polar categories. Growing up in the small town of York, Pennsylvania, Koonss father ran Henry J. Koons Decorators, through which Koons came to understand how the middle-class endow material goods and décor with their deepest and most personal aspirations. Koons invokes a challenging poetics of class, revealing the emotional investments crystallized in objects; these objects and the desires that they provoke inevitably vary by class, presenting a stimulating comment on the nature of objecthood and material culture in America.\nAt the time of its execution, the Banality series as a whole was Koonss most elaborate  feat of artistic production; encompassing such iconic works as Bear and Policeman, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, and Pink Panther, among others, this unique and limited group of objects enabled Koons to provoke a fundamental shift in the relationship between art and life and incite a variety of reactions from his viewers: Banality was about communicating to the bourgeois class. I wanted to remove their guilt and shame about the banality that motivates them and which they respond toto embrace their own history so that they can move on and actually create a new upper class instead of having culture debase them. (The artist in Angelika Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 28) To create the present work, Koons commissioned professional craftsmen to first carve wood and later meticulously paint the carving to achieve a naturalistic likeness, a method that was originally developed by artists in medieval Europe. Every incision, marking, and precisely painted wooden detail that adorns the present work is indicative of the astoundingly high standards of perfection that have defined Koonss oeuvre, from his first virginal Hoover sculptures to the more recent flawless stainless steel surfaces of the iconic Celebration sculptures including Balloon Dog, Moon, or Tulips.\nExhibiting Koonss natural predilection for the ornate extravagance of the Baroque, Bear and Policeman possesses a purposefully distinct eighteenth century Bavarian charm and feel, which may be found in the exaggeration of the motif, seductive surface, bright palette, and exaggerated expressions of the subjects faces. Koonss interest in the Rococo the style that exalted the ornate and lavish is palpable in the artists response to this periods popularization of figurines among the petite bourgeoisie, feeding their own aspirations and desires for status in a way that prefigured the contemporary culture of conspicuous consumption. Witty, intellectual and candid in its presentation, Koonss depiction of the everyday masks a narrative that operates on numerous levels, confronting the viewer with reflections on social aesthetics while never losing sight of the primacy of the objects visual appeal. The result is a sculpture which is more authentic in feel than any ornament that he might have found, a hyperbole of the banal which resuscitates the conceptual genius of Duchamp and rephrases it in a new authentic voice.\nSigned, dated 1988, and numbered 3/3 on the underside
US
NY, US
US

medium

Polychromed wood

creator

Koons, Jeff

dimensions

85 by 43 by 37 in. 215.9 by 109.2 by 94 cm.

exhibition

New York, Sonnabend Gallery; Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler; and Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, Banality, November 1988 - January 1989 (an edition no. shown at each venue) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Horn of Plenty: 16 Artists from New York, January - February 1989 (edition no. unknown) Rotterdam, Rotterdamse Kunststichting; and Rotterdam, Galerie t'Venster, Jeff Koons: Nieuw Werk, January - February 1989, illustrated in exhibition brochure (edition no. unknown) Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation, May - August 1989, no. 26 (edition no. unknown), p. 40 (text) Malmö, Rooseum Malmö, What is Contemporary Art?, June - July 1989, p. 103, no. 55, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Mit dem Fernrohr durch die Kungeschichte, August - October 1989, no. 49, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Culture and Commodity: An Eighties Perspective, February - May 1990 (edition no. unknown) New York, Museum of Modern Art; Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago; and Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, High & Low: Modern Art, Popular Culture, October 1990 - September 1991, p. 397, no. 35, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler, Robert Gober, On Kawara, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Albert Oehlen, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth, Philip Taaffe, Christopher Wool, May - June 1992, p. 31, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Pully/Lausanne, FAE Musée d'Art Contemporain; Turin, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea; Athens, Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art; and Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Post Human, June 1992 - May 1993, p. 109, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, December 1992 - October 1993, no. 40, illustrated in color (artist's proof) Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Aarhus, Aarhus Kunstmuseum; Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Jeff Koons - Retrospectiv, November 1992 - April 1993, p. 64, no. 46, illustrated in color (edition no. 1/3) Bordeaux, CAPC Musee d'Art Contemporain, Collection pour une region: Richard Baquie, Jedermann N.A., Jeff Koons, Rombouts & Droste, Haim Steinbach, June - November 1993, p. 35, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, From Beyond the Pale: Art and Artists at the Edge of Consensus, 1994, p. 35, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Tuning Up. Einsatz für eine Sammlung in Wolfsburg, May - September 1994, n.p., illustrated in color (edition no. 2/3) Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Tuning Up #2, October - November 1994,  illustrated in color (edition no. 2/3) Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Tuning Up #3, September 1995 - January 1996 (edition no. 2/3) Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, The Age of Modernism - Art in the 20th Century, May - July 1997, p. 110, no. 334, illustrated in color (edition no. 2/3) Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Jeff Koons, June - September 2003, p. 66, illustrated in color (edition no. 2/3) Tokyo, Mori Art Museum,  A Survival Guide for Art and Life, October 2003 - January 2004, p. 75, no. 56, p. 297 (text) (artist's proof) Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art; and Helsinki City Art Museum, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, September 2004 - April 2005, p. 88, illustrated in color (edition no. 2/3)  London, Hayward Gallery, Universal Experience: Art, Life and the Tourist's Eye, October - December 2005 (edition no. 2/3) Monaco, Grimaldi Forum, New York, New York, July - September 2006, p. 479, no. 498, illustrated in color (edition no. 2/3) Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Jeff Koons, May - September 2008, p. 69, illustrated in color, and illustrated in color on the back cover (detail) (artist's proof) Versailles, Château de Versailles, Jeff Koons Versailles, October 2008 - April 2009, pp. 61, 148, and 166, illustrated in color, and pp. 62-63, illustrated in color (detail) (edition no. 2/3) New York, Deitch Projects, Pig, April - August 2009 (artist's proof) Edinburgh, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Childish Things, November 2010 - January 2011, p. 46 (text), p. 47, illustrated in color, and p. 95, illustrated in color (detail) (edition no. unknown) Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Jeff Koons, May - September 2012, p. 119, illustrated in color, and p. 121, illustrated in color (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1989) (edition no. 2/3) London, Hayward Gallery, The Human Factor, June - September 2014,  p. 129, illustrated in color, p. 130, illustrated in color (detail), and p. 131 (text) (edition no. unknown) New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne; and Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, June 2014 - September 2015, p. 106, no. 59, illustrated in color, and p. 115, illustrated in color (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1989) (artist's proof in New York; edition no. 2/3 in Paris and Bilbao) Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, In the Cage of Freedom, October 2016 - January 2017, p. 15 (edition no. 2/3) Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, America! America! How real is real?, December 2017 - May 2018 (edition no. unknown) New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Approaching the Figure, January - February 2018 (edition no. unknown) 

literature

"Atlantisches Bundnis, eine Gesprächsrunde mit Georg Herold, Jeff Koons und Isabelle Graw," Wolkenkratzer, January - February 1998, pp. 36-44 Martin van Nieuwenhuyzen, "Horn of Plenty," Flash Art, March/April 1989, p. 102, illustrated (in installation) "Big Fun: Four reactions to the new Jeff Koons," Arscribe International, March/April 1989, p. 49, illustrated (in installation) "Collaborations, Martin Kippenberger-Jeff Koons," Parkett, no. 19, 1989, p. 35 (text) Hunter Drohojowska, "The '80s Stop Making Sense," ARTnews, October 1989, p. 147, illustrated (in installation) Klaus Kertess, "Bad," Parkett, no. 19, 1989, p. 35, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Jean-Christophe Ammann, "Der Fall Jeff Koons," Parkett, no. 19, 1989, p. 54 (text) Thomas Kellein, Mit dem Fernrohr durch die Kunstgeschichte: von Galilei zu den Gebrüdern Mongolfier, Basel, 1989, no. 49, illustrated Brook Adams, "Into the Woods: Thoughts on A Forest of Signs," Art and Design 6, 1990, p. 44, illustrated (in installation) "An Evening with Jeff Koons," The Smithsonian Associate, vol. 18, no. 7, March 1990, p. 12, illustrated, and illustrated in color on the cover Robert Storr, "Jeff Koons," Art Press, October 1990, p. 20, illustrated in color Clare Farrow, Andreas Papadakis and Nicola Hadges, "Jeff Koons: The Power of Seduction," Art & Design 6, nos. 1-2, 1990, pp. 48-53; reprinted in New Art International, Academy Editions, London, 1991, pp. 153-157 Alessandra Mammi, "I neomoderni," L'Espresso, no. 21, May 26, 1991, p. 26, p. 93, illustrated in color Thomas Frend, "Ein Happening für Gefühle und Begierden," Newmag, July 1991, p. 42, illustrated in color Claudia Kirsch, "Ich bin einer der perversesten Menschen," Esquire, March 1992, p. 15, illustrated in color Angelika Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 120, no. 22, illustrated in color (detail), p. 25, illustrated in color (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1988), p. 120, illustrated in color (detail), and p. 121, illustrated in color (in installation at Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 1988) (edition no. unknown) Albig Von Jorg-Uwe, "Jeff Koons, ein Prophet der inneren Leere," Art-Das Kunstmagazin, December 1992, p. 57, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Robert Rosenblum, et. al., The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 115, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Munich, K-Raum Daxer, Selected Works from the Early Eighties: Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, 1992 David Littlejohn, "Who is Jeff Koons and Why Are People Saying Such Terrible Things About Him?," ARTnews, April 1993, p. 92, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Erik Jens Sorensen, Jeff Koons, Denmark, 1993, p. 64 The 20th Century Art Book, London, 1996, p. 249, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Thomas Zaunschirm, Kunst als Sündenfall: Die Tabuverletzungen des Jeff Koons, Rombach, 1996, p. 52 (text) Exh. Cat., Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Die Epoche der Moderne Kunst im 20 Jahrhundert, 1997, no. 334, illustrated (edition no. 2/3) Exh. Cat., Berlin, Guggenheim, Jeff Koons Easyfun-Ethereal, 2001 Thomas Kellein, ed., Jeff Koons Pictures 1988-2002, New York, 2002 "Jeff Koons: Son kitsch vaut des millions!," Paris Match, no. 2798, January 2-8, 2003, p. 4, illustrated (in installation) Exh. Cat., New York, C&M Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, 2004, pp. 17 and 88, illustrated in color (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1988) (edition no. unknown) Ken Miller, "The Establishment: Jeff Koons [interview]" Tokion, March - April 2005, p. 6, p. 16, and pp. 38-41, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Müller Von Hans-Joachim, "Wir sind Oberammergau," Monopol, no. 6, December 2006, p. 45, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007, p. 299, illustrated in color (in installation at Galerie Max Hetzler, 1988), pp. 304-305, illustrated in color (detail), p. 306, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Elena Molinaro and Gianni Romano, Jeff Koons, Retrospettivamente, Milan, 2007, p. 29, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Stephanie Seymour, "Jeff Koons: Art Made in Heaven," Whitewall, Fall 2007, p. 140, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Leslie Camhi, "The Seer - Ileana Sonnabend," New York Times Style Magazine, December 2, 2007, p. 209, illustrated (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1988) Ingrid Sischy, "Alla Coute di Re Jeff," Vanity Fair, no. 40, October 8, 2008, illustrated (in installation) Jeff Koons, "The Eyes Had It: Robert Pincus-Witten, Jeff Koons, and Haim Steinbach on Ileana Sonnabend (1914-2007)," Artforum, January 2008, p. 70, illustrated in color (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1988) (edition no. unknown) Thomas Wagner, "Generation Zeitgeist," Art-Das Kunstmagazin no. 1, January 2008, p. 4, illustrated in color (in installation at Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1988) (edition no. unknown) Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, pp. 295 and 298, illustrated in color (in installation with other works from the Banality series, New York, 1989) (artist's proof) L. Marsova, "AO On Site - Basel," Art Observed, June 14, 2012, illustrated (in installation) Matthew Taylor, ed., Jeff Koons: Conversations with Norman Rosenthal, London, 2014, p. 139, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown)

provenance

The artist Private Collection, Italy Private Collection, New York Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London (acquired from the above in 1997) Acquired from the above by David Teiger in June 1998

signedDate

Signed, dated 1988, and numbered 3/3 on the underside

artist_range_end

1955

artist_range_start

1955

consignmentDesignation

The History of Now: The Collection of David Teiger Sold to Benefit Teiger Foundation for the support of contemporary art

creator_nationality_dates

B.1955


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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