Bourgeois Bust - Jeff and Ilona



113 x 71.1 x 53.3 cm (44 1/2 x 28 x 21 in.)

In 1991, the artist and his then-wife. He with hair slicked back, eyes closed, prominent collarbone and hairless torso. She with tumbling locks, eyes closed, right arm missing and pointed breasts in a pearl setting. Not kissing, but about to kiss: an event on the verge of breaking into the eternal present of classical sculpture. Not so much a kiss as a run-up, the instant before. Not so much Rodin (The Kiss, c. 1882) as Canova (Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, 1793). For the rest, this is Jeff Koons playing on the multiple meanings of the kiss as simultaneously off ering and welcome, capture and capitulation, animation—anima, the breath transmitted—and reanimation; here is a sleeping beauty who must be brought back to consciousness. Although less salaciously than in some of the other works from the Made in Heaven series, the artist portrays himself with Ilona Staller in a way that elevates his private live to the level of the nobly immemorial. With its traditional marble look, its restrained voluptuousness and the conventionality of its pedestal, this double bust reminds us of Canova’s Neoclassicism; but there are also suggestions, in its carnal impassiveness and its simultaneously ardent and icy desire, of some of the works of Auguste Clésinger (Woman Bitten by a Serpent, 1847) and Jean-Léon Gérôme (Tanagra, 1890).

Here Koons is oscillating between an overt hyperrealism and a certain stylisation: the anatomical details are not meticulously recreated, the pearls and the hair can seem immune to the law of gravity , and the gestures are in some cases implausible. But it is precisely in this undisguised mannerism, this quasinaturalness and this ‘aesthetic of the almost’, acked by a considerable artistic gift , that werecognise the sty le of a pop icon by no means insensitive to the rich heritage of the past.

Colin Lemoine, Extract from the Exhibition Catalogue « Art Lovers », Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, 2014.