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Pink Panther
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Pink Panther
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Pink Panther

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About the item

Jeff Koons, Pink Panther\nSigned, dated 88 and numbered AP \nPorcelain\n41 x 20 1/2 x 19 in. 104.1 x 52.1 x 48.3 cm.\nExecuted in 1988, this work is the artist's proof from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.
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NY, US
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notes

Representing the highest tier of Jeff Koons' artistic achievement, Pink Panther from 1988 is immediately identifiable as a masterpiece not only of the artist's historic canon, but also of the epoch of recent Contemporary Art. It conflates the classic themes that define Jeff Koons' output - materiality and artificiality, eroticism and naivety, popular culture and rarefied elitism – and is, quite simply, the model expression of one of the most innovative and influential artists of our times. The elite edition of three plus one artist's proof is immensely illustrious: one version is housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York and another resides in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Following the spectacular successes of major exhibitions at Versailles; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Serpentine Gallery, London in the past two years alone, Jeff Koons' critical reputation today is virtually unmatched. As one of the salient works from a period of astounding development within his career, Pink Panther is a sculpture of enduring art historical significance, and its appearance at auction affords an exceedingly rare opportunity.

Initially unveiled at Koons' seminal show Banality, held in 1988 concurrently at the Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Galerie Max Hetzler in Cologne and Donald Young Gallery in Chicago, Pink Panther has been emblematic of this remarkable series ever since, which is itself regarded as a landmark of his oeuvre: "The Banality gang have found their place in the pantheon of art history...He created the objects precisely because of their power to represent collective taste, and he wanted them to be catalysts for self-acceptance. 'I was asking people to give in to their past, to let go of their guilt and shame'." (Ingrid Sischy in Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 2009, p. 13). With the Banality series, Koons was seen as ushering in a new aesthetic era: outrageously confrontational, the audacity of Banality embraces a high-culture version of low-culture cults that represented Americana, trading on the ubiquity of knick-knacks and stuffed animals, the useless ornaments that both clog and define the life of the bourgeoisie.   Through this body of work Koons desired to provoke a fundamental shift in the relationship between art and life: "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 to" (the artist in Angelika Muthesius, Ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 1992, p. 28). Such was the enormity of Koons' undertaking that the icons of this series - Michael Jackson and Bubbles, Bear and Policeman, Ushering in Banality, and Pink Panther - have come to epitomize a generation and stand today as the incarnation of an artistic era. Moreover, in breaking many aesthetic and technical boundaries, Pink Panther and the Banality series point toward the sumptuous sculptures in the grandiloquent Celebration series.

The bombshell blonde pin-up epitomizes the Jayne Mansfield brand that defined sexual fantasy in the classic Pop cast, while also anticipating the entrance of Ilona Staller to Koons' life as the porn star La Cicciolina who he married in 1991. Indeed, the artist has explained that it was in the course of looking through magazines trying to find appropriate flesh tones for Pink Panther that he noticed a picture of his future wife (the artist in interview with Rem Koolhaas and Han Ulrich Obrist in Exh. Cat., Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, 2004, p. 66).  There are questions of self-portraiture in the present work.  Perhaps Pink Panther is a contemporary take on the classical "artist and his muse" employed by many artists for centuries prior.  The carnal twisting, pressing and joining of forms recalls Picasso's paintings of similar composition – the painter and his subject.  Is Koons the panther?  Is the viewer the panther?  This multi-layered ambiguity is essential to the success of the works from the Banality series.  These works seem caught between rational hierarchies of classical order and irrational trivialities of kitsch contemporary culture.

In Pink Panther the display of the woman's semi-naked body, with a hand neatly covering her voluptuous breast and the cleft of her buttocks just peeking above the rippled turquoise dress, is overtly sexual. However, with the bizarrely incongruous Pink Panther cuddly toy clinging to this literal embodiment of carnal desire, Koons strikes an outrageous contrast between the competing powers of adult and childhood associations. Although the Pink Panther cartoon character was initially created by Hawley Pratt for the opening sequence of the eponymous 1963 film starring Peter Sellers as the bungling Inspector Clouseau, it was only after becoming the protagonist of its own 1960s television show that it entered the mainstream consciousness as a contemporary Pop icon. The Panther's expression here, a synthesis of bewildered surprise and forlorn disappointment, injects the supposedly inanimate toy with real emotional character, making the artificial seem hyper-real.  The result of this odd pairing begs the question of who is in control in the encounter – who is taking advantage, or seducing who?  Koons casts a cheap and mass-produced stuffed toy as the tragicomic antihero of this supremely postmodern narrative. Indeed, the artist has amplified this complex juxtaposition: "The world of pelouche animals – pelouche means soft in French – is for me a dialogue, a negotiation between the animate and the inanimate. They take on the stance of receiving love. A pelouche doesn't desire to be loved. It doesn't look 'Love me!' but teases 'Love me!'. For if it did not automatically receive love you would throw it away." (Ibid., p. 25)

Pink Panther and the Banality series as a whole was, at the time, Koons' most elaborate and dedicated response to the mechanics and dynamics of appropriation.  Koons had commissioned craftsmen in the Dolomites to execute his porcelain and poly-chromed wood works, and the results were, in a word, staggering.  The pain-staking efforts to master traditional materials in unprecedented scale and therefore complexity set Koons apart from his contemporaries.  The manufacturing industry had for a long time been an extension of his own palette and beginning with the bronze cast of the Aqualung in the Equilibrium series from 1985, Koons had always delighted in the visual irony and aesthetic delectation of recasting his subject in a new media with the utter perfection of machine-precision finesse.  Yet in this series, for the first time, the pared-back frozen feeling of bronze or stainless steel is replaced by Koons' natural predilection for the baroque in the elaborate and intricate surfaces of porcelain.  The works have purposefully distinct eighteenth century Bavarian charm and feel, which may be found in the exaggeration of motif; in the seductive surface and in the perky palette; in the ideogrammatic and exaggerated expressions of the subjects' faces.  The present sculpture recalls the Meissen ceramics of the mid 1700's in both execution and in subject matter – Pink Panther is a bizarre twist on the gleeful coupling and typical frivolity of the figures in these compositions.  The artist's meticulous selection of media is central to the conceptual project, contributing directly to the import of the work rather than merely providing a vehicle with which to issue visual communication. Speaking of the Banality series, Koons has explained "The sculptures are made of porcelain and wood. I brought the spiritual aspect of wood and the sexuality of porcelain together because it's really about that type of tension" (artist in interview with Rem Koolhaas and Han Ulrich Obrist in: Exh. Cat., Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, 2004, p. 66).

The terms of the present work's execution are flawless: the contrasting textures of the porcelain surfaces are rendered in dazzlingly vivid colors that reinforce the object's artificiality, while the transparent glazes simultaneously evoke the fragility of thin glass and the ethereal nature of a reflective liquid. Indeed, as Eckhard Schneider has observed, "In Pink Panther Jeff Koons works with beautiful surfaces...and juxtaposes the traditional realism of the female torso with the powerful visual quality of the Pink Panther. Moreover, the undefined lasciviousness of the panther lends the sculpture a grotesque air, and charges it with latent sexuality" (in Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne 2009, p. 51)  Witty, intellectual and disingenuously candid in its presentation, Koons' appropriation of everyday commonplaces 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 object's visual appeal.  Crucially, in the present work, Koons' Duchampian ready-made is actually a hybrid, which he bends to his artistic purpose.  The result is a sculpture which is more authentic in feel than any ornament that he might have found, a hyperbole of kitsch which resuscitates the conceptual genius of Duchamp and rephrases it in a new voice.  The sculpture awkwardly elicits pleasure while simultaneously unsettles.  Koons has famously expounded on this sculpture, "Pink Panther is about masturbation   I don't know what she would be doing with the Pink Panther other than taking it home to masturbate with it"  (Angelika Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 113)  Koons' aristocratic choice of materials for the banal subject matter isolates the viewer from being able to actually participate in the episode – like pornography, Koons' art is available for contemplation, not direct participation.  Ironic by nature, Pink Panther invites, seduces and is, in the end, untouchable.

medium

Porcelain

creator

Jeff Koons

exhibited

Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler, Banality, November 1988 (ed. no. unknown)

New York, Sonnabend Gallery, Banality, November 1988 - December 1988 (ed. no. unknown)

Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, Banality, December 1988 - January 1989 (ed. no. unknown)

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Aarhus, Aarhus Kunstmuseum; Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, November 1992 - April 1993, p. 99, illustrated in color (Amsterdam and Stuttgart), cat. no. 42, p. 61, illustrated in color (Aarhus) (AP)

Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Collección Taschen, October 2004 - January 2005, pp. 126 - 127, illustrated in color, pp. 134 - 135, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the cover

Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Figures in the Field: Figurative Sculpture and Abstract Painting from Chicago Collections, 2006 (ed. no. 2/3)

Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Seeing Is a Kind of Thinking: A Jim Nutt Companion, 2011 (ed. no. 2/3)

dimensions

41 x 20 1/2 x 19 in. 104.1 x 52.1 x 48.3 cm.

literature

Klaus Kertess, "Bad," Parkett, vol. 19, Zurich, 1989, p. 41, illustrated in color

"Koons' Kitschiger Zombie-Zoo," Stern, December 21, 1989, p. 110, illustrated in color

Matthew Collings, "You are a White Man, Jeff...," Modern Painters, June 1989, p. 61, illustrated in color

Gregorio Magnani, "This is Not Conceptual," Flash Art, March 1989, p. 85, illustrated in color

Stuart Morgan, "Big Fun," Artscribe, March 1989, p. 49, illustrated in color

Jyrki Siukonen, Artist: Images & Reality Seminar, New York, January 25-26, 1991

"The Ape Mother as a Tea-pot," Daidalos, no. 40, June 15, 1991, p. 45, illustrated

Jeff Koons and Robert Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, p. 105, illustrated in color

Angelika Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 112, illustrated in color (installation view at the Sonnabend Gallery 1988) and pp. 114-115, illustrated in color

Albig Jorg-Uwe, "Jeff Koons, ein Prophet der inneren Leere," Art, December 1992, p. 56, illustrated

Exh. Cat., San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (and traveling), Jeff Koons, 1992, cat. no. 45, pl. 43, illustrated in color (another example)

Lars Morell, "Jeff Koons Interview: The Political Value of Art," Skala: Nordic Magazine of Architecture and Art, no. 28, 1992, illustrated on the cover

Thaddeus Ropac, ed., Die Muse? Transforming the Image of Woman in Contemporary Art, Munich, 1995, p. 74, illustrated

Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the Werner and Elaine Dannheisser Collection, September 1997 - January 1998, pp. 80-81, illustrated (another ed. no.)

Exh. Cat., New York, C & M Arts, Naked Since 1950, 2001, fig. 48, illustrated in color (ed. no. 3/3)

Exh. Cat., Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Jeff Koons, 2001, p. 19, illustrated in color (installation view at Galerie Max Hetzler 1988)

Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J. Mamiya, Richard G. Tansey, Gardners Art Through the Ages, 11th edition, Orlando, 2001, p. 1132, fig. 34-79, illustrated in color

Exh. Cat., New York, C & M Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, 2004, pl. 7, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the front and back cover (detail) (ed. no. 3/3)

Richard Lacayo, "How Does '80s Art Look Now," TIME, March 28, 2005, pp. 59 - 60

Kelly Devine Thomas, "The Selling of Jeff Koons," Art News, vol. 104, no. 5, May 2005, pp. 19 and 117, illustrated in color

Tatjana Rosenstein, "Bad Boy der Kunstszene," Art Investor, Germany, 2006, no. 3, pp. 50-58, illustrated in color

Lucrécia Zappi, "O Rei do Neopop; o controvertido artista Americano Jeff Koons rejeita rótulo de kitsch," Illustrada, Brazil, July 26, 2006, illustrated in color on the cover

Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, Jeff Koons (Supercontemporanea series), Milan, 2006, pp. 54 and 55, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the cover

Blacksquare, 2007, p. 69, illustrated in color

Christa Dietrich, "Eben hineinstolpern ins Glück," Vorarlberger Nachrichten, Austria, February 17, 2007, pp. A1 and D7, illustrated

Stephanie Seymour, "Jeff Koons: Art Made in Heaven," Whitewall, Fall 2007, p. 140, illustrated in color (ed. no. 3/3)

Calvin Tomkins, "The Turnaround Artist," The New Yorker, April 23, 2007, p. 60

Leslie Camhi, "The Seer - Ileana Sonnabend," The New York Times, Style Magazine, December 2, 2007, p. 209, illustrated in color (installation view at the Sonnabend Gallery, 1988)

Exh. Cat., Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Re-Object: Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Merz, 2007, pp. 17, 111, 114 and 115, illustrated in color (installation photographs) (ed. no. 2/3)

Robert Pincus-Witten, "Passages: The Eyes Had It," Art Forum, January 2008, p. 70, illustrated in color (installation view at the Sonnabend Gallery 1998)

Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein Girls, 2008, p. 12, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)

Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, 2008, pp. 10 and 62, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the cover (ed. no. 2/3)

Exh. Cat., Versailles, Chateau de Versailles, Jeff Koons Versailles, 2008, pp. 73 - 75, 152, and 166, illustrated in color (installation photographs) (ed. no. 3/3)

Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007, p. 48, illustrated (installation view at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1993), p. 55, illustrated  (installation view at Galerie Max Hetzler 1988), p. 279,  illustrated  (installation view at Galerie Max Hetzler 1988), pp. 288-289, illustrated in color, and p. 565, illustrated (installation view at C&M Arts 2004)

Marie-Pierre Nakamura, "USA: Jeff Koons," Art Actuel, no. 57, July/August 2008, p. 71, illustrated in color

Graham Bader, "Jeff Koons: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago," Artforum, September 2008, p. 450, illustrated in color (installation photograph) (ed. no. 2/3)

Art Actuel, no. 58, September - October 2008, illustrated in color on the cover

Raphael Morata, "Jeff Koons au Chateau de Versailles," Point de Vue, September 17, 2008, p. 63, illustrated in color (installation view at Versailles 2008) (ed. no. 3/3)

Ute Thon, "Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand," Art, October 2008, p. 39, illustrated in color

Philippe Dagen, "Evenement: Jeff Koons Versailles," Artpress, November 2008, p. 24, illustrated in color (installation view at Versailles 2008) (ed. no. 3/3)

Exh. Cat., Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler, Jeff Koons, October - December 2008, p. 35, illustrated (installation view at Galerie Max Hetzler 1988)

Jonathan Fineberg, Art Since 1940 Strategies of Being, Third Edition, New York, 2010, p. 459, illustrated in color

Kunst. Fotografie, Grafik, Neue Medien, Architektur, Malerei, Skulptur, Techniken, New York, 2010, p. 494, illustrated in color

Brigitte Kölle and Stiftung Kunstsammlung, Es geht voran: Kunst der 80er. Eine Düsseldorfer Perspektive, Munich, 2010, p. 148, illustrated in color (installation view at Galerie Max Hetzler 1988)

Katy Siegel, Since '45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art, London, 2011, p. 161, illustrated  (installation view at Galerie Max Hetzler 1988)

provenance

Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne

Acquired by the present owner from the above in April 1992


*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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