In the past few years, Jeff Koons’ fame and business has been blowing up, just like his larger than life balloon animals. Designed to intrigue onlookers, many of Koons’ pieces of art draw viewers into their shiny surfaces but remain untouchable, and the artist seems to be having the same effect on his contemporary art career. Koons is increasingly being recognized in the media and popular culture for his very original and controversial artwork.
With a number of large accomplishments, 2013 marked a noteworthy year for Koons. At the beginning of the year, he finalized his plans to renovate and combine two neighboring Upper East Side townhouses to construct a more comfortable and spacious home for his family in New York City. Koons has been working with Peter Pennoyer, the infamous architect who designed the Warhol Factory, the Mark Hotel, and the Luncheon Club at the New York Stock Exchange, to find a way to create one mega-townhouse out of 11 and 13 East 67th Street. With a team of two renowned creators, the construction has been gaining increased media attention as the large project is one that is unheard of. The construction is also creating controversy within the neighborhood over endless noise and road blockages, leaving neighbors less enthused about the artist’s presence in the area.
Simultaneously, Jeff Koons is still making waves as his exhibit, “A Retrospective,”opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in late June. The artist’s collection, which displays a multitude of pieces that span the entirety of his career, is the largest single-artist exhibit ever held at the museum. On display through mid-October, the collection coincides with the large spectacle that Koons has standing tall at 30 Rock. An extraordinary topiary replica of Koons’ “Split-Rocker” currently holds 50,000 flowers and stands 37-feet tall at Rockefeller Center, and cannot be missed by the hundreds of people that view the landmark on a daily basis. Koons is becoming a household name from his latest works and even gaining pop-culture status. Recognition from popular rapper and producer, Jay-Z. In the track “Picasso Baby” off his Magna Carta album, Jay-Z drops Koons’ name as he aspires to “blow up” like a billion Jeff Koons balloons. These balloons, while gaining attention from Jay-Z’s listeners, are interestingly another source of great recognition for Koons. Also in 2013, Jeff Koons’ 10-foot stainless steel Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million, the highest price for a piece by a living artist. Jay-Z mentions Koons, along with Da Vinci, Picasso, and others, as he desires a life that is comparable to the grandeur of the works of these artists.
The Jeff Koons shout out by Jay-Z was followed shortly after by an even more direct use of Koons’ work in popular culture, as Lady Gaga commissioned the artist for the design of her 2013 ARTPOP album cover. Koons’ design for the album cover depicts Gaga as a transcendent figure, continuing the theme present in most of his artwork while furthering the message delivered through Lady Gaga’s album. If the commission to design the singer’s album cover did not command enough attention, Lady Gaga’s song “Applause” directly references Koons, and her transformation between art and artist, when singing “one second I’m a Koons, then suddenly the Koons is me.”