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Neo-pop icon Jeff Koons comes to Paris for retrospective

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-11-24

Controversial star of the contemporary art world Jeff Koons is staging a major retrospective at Paris’s famed Pompidou Centre this week. The American artist hopes the exhibit, which opens Wednesday, will reach a wider audience in France.

"I'm not necessarily looking to make popular art, but accessible art,” said the 59-year-old American artist in an interview with AFP during the last-minute preparations for his show at the Pompidou Centre.

Months after his retrospective opened at New York’s iconic Whitney Museum of American Art for a controversial run - which saw two separate attacks on the exhibit by vandals - Koons now brings his show to the French capital.

Koons - one of the USA’s best-known contemporary artists - says he’s happy to be back in France. He points out that France was the “first foreign country” to exhibit his work when he was just 20 years old.

Koons says he is “still surprised” by the honour of his 2000 invitation to lunch with then-French president Jacques Chirac during a show in the southern French town of Avignon.

"For an American artist, it’s amazing to have lunch with the president of a country like France,” he says, noting that it was a “symbol of the open spirit” and the level of interest in art in this country.

Divisive figure

As the high priest of the Neo-pop art movement, Koons is a divisive figure. Public opinion is firmly split between those who consider him a pioneering genius, and those who dismiss his work as commercialised kitsch.

There’s no doubt however about the value of his art. Prices for his pieces range in the millions, with his famous “Balloon Dog” fetching a record a $58.4 million in 2013.

But the work of the former husband of Italian porn star Ilona Staller (better known as "Cicciolina" and for serving as a member of parliament in her native Italy) remains controversial, especially the pieces with sexual energy imbued in articles as prosaic as a vacuum cleaner. His oeuvre also includes installations, sculptures and photographs of a more explicitly sexual nature featuring the artist in clinches with his porn star former wife.

A 2008 Koons exhibition in the majestic Versailles palace sparked fiery debate among French audiences.

‘I wanted to describe myself as a pig’

Does he feel misunderstood at times? "I think the criticism, judgments, prevent people from experiencing the art," the artist replied seriously in an interview before the opening of his show. "I remember when I was doing publicity images, I was photographed next to a big pig with a baby pig in her arms – I wanted to describe myself as a pig before anyone else could do it."

Based in New York since the age of 20, Koons now reigns over a workshop that employs 130 people.

What does he think of his explosive fame? "I don’t really think about it," he says. "I always wanted to be an artist, to participate in the dialogue about art. This is the true value of art. This is the reward I draw – an intellectual reward, the feeling that I may be able to touch the lives of some people."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

Date created : 2014-11-24

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