A rare work from his seminal series The New, Jeff Koons’s New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers is the embodiment of society’s obsession with all that is new. This work has been exhibited as part of Koons’s first critically acclaimed retrospective in 1993, which toured the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart. Dating from 1980, the very beginning of the artist’s illustrious career, three other works featuring vacuum cleaners from this series were exhibited as part of his debut solo exhibition in the United States, the window installation at the New Museum in New York that was also titled The New. Made over a period of eight years, other examples of work from this series are in museum collections across the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate in London.
A highly conceptual work, New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers is visually, strikingly simple: three identical, brand-new deluxe Hoovers, exhibited side by side in an acrylic case, and backlit by six fluorescent lights. By taking ordinary, everyday domestic objects and placing them in an unfamiliar environment, coolly detached from their usual context by a transparent vitrine, Koons re-frames the objects into sculptural, rather than functional, entities.
As with the other works that comprise The New, which followed up and refined upon a series now known as the Pre-New, New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers is an exemplary manifestation of Koons’s conscious attempt to position himself as the natural successor to the legacies of Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp. Like them, Koons legitmizes the quotidian object as a subject for art, encouraging a reconceptualization of everyday realities, and exploring the way in which our desires and fantasies are projected onto objects. lt was a significant moment for Koons when he first truly encountered the work of Duchamp, while working at MoMA in the late 1970s. Inspired by the directness of the readymade, an artwork based on ideas, not its formal qualities, Koons has repeatedly turned to objects that help to narrow the traditional division between popular culture and art throughout his career. He often emphasized that his
work is inclusive. “I have always tried to create work which does not alienate any part of my audience”(J. Koons, quoted in The Jeff Koons Handbook, New York 1992, p.44).
Like Duchamp’s infamous urinal work, Fountain, the vacuum cleaner was chosen by the artist deliberately because of its anonymity and detachment from the normal motifs that might more commonly be portrayed in fine art. The Hoover is a largely functional object, an unambiguous sign of the domestic chore, and a symbol of the perennial battle of cleanliness over filth. Presented as they are, in a man-made box and lit brightly as if in a shop window, they are the ultimate bearers of the idea of the ‘new’. Newness, like youth, is a venerated state in a consumer society, a symbol of desire, hope, improvement and progress. Yet by its very nature, it is ephemeral and unsustainable, set on a path towards obsolesce as soon as it begins the function it is designed for. An intriguing, intrinsic part of a capitalist economy, it is also a feature that applies as much to a commercially driven art world as it does to the world of consumer goods.
Finding inspiration in imagery from the world around him—especially manufactured consumer goods—as a way of drawing attention to the power of the purchase and the aesthetics and politics behind hierarchies of taste, has been a mainstay of Koons’s work over the years. Extrapolating and expanding some of the central tenants of Pop Art, Koons engages with the idea of art in an age of mass reproduction, embracing new technology and the increasing importance of the media. Koons ensures that his work is manufactured to meticulous standards. Just like the pristine condition of the three identical Hoovers in New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, this sense of fresh commodity, untainted by time or its functional purpose, is an integral theme within his oeuvre. “These works present ideal newness” Koons has said of The New, explaining, “the whole philosophy of my work maintains that the individual just needs self-confidence in life. Self-confidence that cleverness is enough—that they can display themselves, use the abilities that they have” (J. Koons, quoted in Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Naples, 2003, pp. 16-17).
“They’re very virginal and very frightening,” says Koons, talking about the significance of the vacuum cleaners in this series. “I mean, they’re dealing with the immortal. The vacuum cleaners are being displayed for their newness. They are displaying their integrity of birth. They never function. [Their] function is to clean, but my pieces are non-functioning, so, if they’re taken care of properly, and kept encased, they’ll last forever. I went around and bought up all the vacuum cleaners I could buy before they stopped making a certain model. I wasn’t showing them with indifference. I was being very specific. I was showing them for their anthropomorphic quality, their sexual androgyny. They are breathing machines. But, when they do function, they suck up dirt. The newness is gone. If one of my works was to be turned on, it would be destroyed!” (J. Koons, quoted in “Interview with Anthony Hayden-Guest,” reproduced in A. Muthesius (ed.), Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, pp. 16-17).
The anthropomorphic qualities of the shampoo polishers in New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers are of paramount importance for the piece. Isolated from the world around them in their acrylic vitrine and displaying, in his opinion, “both male and female sexuality. It has orifices and phallic attachments, “ the viewer is invited to see parallels within their own lives. “They are ultimate states of being,” Koons has said, going into greater depth: “It is about being new, eternally new. I confront the viewer with objects that are in a position to present themselves as being immortal. They will remain new forever. What’s important is that they maintain their integrity by not participating. It is different for the individual; to display integrity they have to participate. It is completely opposite for these objects” (J. Koons, quoted in Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Naples, 2003, p.141).
Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Jeff Koons , 1980s, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, United States of America, Contemporary
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Aarhus Kunstmuseum and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, November 1992–April 1993, p. 23, no. 5 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Jeff Koons, September–November 1997, n.p. (illustrated in color).
Watertown, Mark W. Potter Gallery, Taft School, EAST/WEST, January–February 2014.
New York, Leila Heller Gallery, Pop Sculpture/Pop Culture, September–November 2014, pp. 22, 30 and 60 (illustrated in color).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
56 x 36 x 15 in. (142.2 x 91.4 x 38.1 cm.)
A. d'Offay, J. Koons, and R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook: A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1992, pp. 50-51 and 151 (illustrated in color).
A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pp. 44 and 164, no. 7 (illustrated in color).
A. Wehr, Plop: Recent Projects of the Public Art Fund, New York, 2004, p. 131 (illustrated in color).
H. Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2008, p. 130 (illustrated in color).
J. Chalmeau, Comprendre l'Art Contemporain, Paris, 2010, p. 162 (illustrated in color).
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Giraud Pisarro Ségalot, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner