Please note that another example of this work has been requested for the exhibition Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June-October 2014.
"One of the things I like about art is that it is always free because once you see it, you can always carry it with you. The idea of a public sculpture is that it is something that is always there. It gives a sense of place and a sense of time. I think that it is different from an artwork, even a big artwork, that's placed outside. I don't think that is the same as public sculpture. Sometimes I'll design something, which, from the very beginning, has a sense of spectacle, something for the community to rally around, and to have a sense of ritual." --Jeff Koons.
The last remaining example of this pivotal work to remain in private hands (two other examples are in collections of the Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica and the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.), Kiepenkerl is Jeff Koons's first public artwork and one that demonstrates the artist's belief in the power of the surface and materials to reflect the universal truths about human existence. Kiepenkerl also marks the pivotal moment in Koons's career when he ended his interest with the "readymade" and embarked on what is arguably the most significant phase of his career, a creative journey ultimately yielding some of his most iconic works, such as Balloon Flower and Tulips.
In 1987 Koons was invited by the curator Kasper Künig, to participate in Skulptur Projekte, an outdoor sculpture exhibition held every ten years in the German town of Münster. For this piece, Koons chose to work with a well-loved local sculpture of the eponymous Kiepenkerl, a folkloric figure who traveled from town to town selling homegrown produce and peddling local gossip as he went. Koons's rendition is fabricated in highly polished stainless steel and with his walking staff in his right hand and puffing on a traditional German pipe, stands proudly looking out towards the horizon. The Kiepenkerl was a traveling salesman, and Koons's figure is loaded down with his wares, including wicker baskets full of game, eggs, potatoes and a large hock of ham. Although industrialization and the resulting depopulation of the rural communities had led to the Kiepenkerl dying out, the character remained a much-loved figure as local people still dress in the traditional smock and red scarf when attending the local markets in the town. Koons seized on both the iconography and the mythology of the existing statuary to produce a work that speaks to ideas of identity, tradition and representation.
Koons's version playfully subverts the traditions of conventional statuary, bringing it up to date and reinvigorating the medium to make it relevant to contemporary society. By appropriating their much-loved statue in a new, shiny medium, Koons offers an affirmation to a local population that has lived through the upheaval of twentieth century German history. He is not mocking the traditions of the past. Rather he's giving them a shiny new Kiepenkerl that offers its own form of abundance and community. As the artist once said, "In Münster town square they normally have a bronze image of the Kiepenkerl and it is a symbol to the community of how self-reliant they are, with their agrarian culture, and this gives them their freedom and their self-determination in the world. I thought it would be interesting to recast it in stainless steel, bring it to a mirror finish, this fake luxury, so that there was a different way for their needs and security to be met at the present time; a more contemporary reality" (J. Koons, quoted by K. Siegel, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 248).
The choice of medium is vital not only to the desired aesthetic, but also plays a central role in the intellectual integrity of the work. For Koons, stainless steel simulates the economic security of luxurious objects, and becomes an ironic portrayal of the figure of a peddler, "To me stainless steel is the material of the Proletarian," he said, "it's what pots and pans are made of. It's a very hard material and it's fake luxury. If these pieces were in silver, they would be absolutely boring. They have absolutely no desire to be in silver; they could not communicate in silver" (J. Koons, Jeff Koons, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1992, p. 64).
Marcel Duchamp once stated that the viewer completes the work, a theme which Koons continues to explore with Kiepenkerl "There are certain images that represent metaphor and archetype," he once said, "At the core of my work these images are anchored, but the surface of these images and objects are chameleon so that people can come with their own life experiences" (J. Koons, interviewed by R. Koolhaus & H. Obrist, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, exh. cat., Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 2004, p. 62).
Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
Executed in 1987. This work is the artist's proof from an edition of three plus one artist's proof and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
Jeff Koons , 20th Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, United States of America, Contemporary
Munich, Skulptur Projekte Mnstert, summer 1987 (another example exhibited).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, December 1992-February 1993 (another example exhibited).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Aarhus Kunstmuseum; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, November 1992-April 1993 (another example exhibited).
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Jeff Koons: A Survey 1981-1994, June -July 1994 (another example exhibited).
London , Anthony D'Offay Gallery, Sculpture, December 1994- February 1995, p. 21 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist's Eye, February-June 2005, pp. 92-93 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, May-September 2008, pp. 56-57 (illustrated in color).
Portland Art Museum, May 2009- present (on loan, another example exhibited).
Philadelphia Museum of Art, June 2010-April 2012 (on loan). Frankfurt, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Jeff Koons, The Sculptor, June-September 2012 (another example exhibited).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, April 2013- present.
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
71 x 26 x 37 in. (180.3 x 66 x 93.9 cm.)
A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pp. 96-97 (another example illustrated in color).
J. Koons, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 87 (another example illustrated in color).
V. Loers, "Puppy, the Sacred Heart of Jesus," Parkett, December 1997, p. 84 (another example illustrated in color).
K. Hixson, "Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist's Eye," Art on Paper, July-August 2005, p. 62 (another example illustrated in color).
S. Cosulich Canarutto, "Jeff Koons," Supercontemporanea, Milan, 2006, pp. 50-51 (another example illustrated in color.)
Hulk Elvis, exh. cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, June-July 2007, p. 15, fig. 6, (another example illustrated in color).
H. Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007, pp. 241, 243-244, 246-247, and 249-250 (another example illustrated in color). J. Tully, "Artist's Most Wanted," Art + Auction, November 2008, p. 186 (another example illustrated in color).
S. Peale, "At Work: The Chores and Magic at Jeff Koons, Inc.," Modern Painters, December 2009/January 2010, p. 63 (illustrated in color).
F. Bonami, "Dal Partenone Al Panettone," Electa, 2010, p. 148 (another example illustrated in color).
242 Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1997
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