Jeff Koons Mucem
Works from the Pinault collection
From Wednesday 19 May 2021 to Monday 18 October 2021
A novel encounter between the major works of Jeff Koons and the popular art collections of the Mucem
The exhibition “Jeff Koons Mucem. Works from the Pinault Collection”, conceived in close collaboration with the American artist, will bring to Marseille some of his most celebrated works, exploring the relationship between Koons’s artworks and popular objects, photographs and documents from the Mucem’s immense collection, which is considered a unique reference in this field.
Widely regarded as one of the most influential living artists, Jeff Koons (born 1955, York, Pennsylvania, USA) draws artistic inspiration from everyday life and objects in contemporary American culture. Reinterpreting the concept of the Duchampian readymade, Koons questions the very concept of a work of art. The variety of subjects, the continuous references to the history of art as well as to the world of advertising, the diverse spectrum of mediums and techniques used have contributed to make his work part of our collective imaginary, proposing a new interpretation of our relationship with everyday life and with the objects that surround us. While Koons’s work reveals insightful reflections on his own time, the artist also holds an inquisitive gaze towards artistic and cultural objects from the past. The artist’s passion for everyday items, alongside the Mucem’s extensive collection, create the perfect stage for a stimulating cultural dialogue.
Composed of an exceptional loan of 19 works from the Pinault Collection, the show offers the opportunity of diving into the artist’s oeuvre, with seminal sculptures (such as Balloon Dog, 1994-2000 or Lobster, 2007-2012) and paintings (such as Backyard, 2002 or Dutch Couple, 2007). From the early works of The New series, to the iconic pieces of the Celebration series, to the most recent creations of the Gazing Ball and Antiquity series, the exhibition spans the artist’s career chronologically over the last 35 years, retracing recurring iconographies and themes, visual associations and modes of expression.
Through this significant loan, the Pinault Collection is delighted to contribute to a preeminent national museum’s exhibition. The Pinault Collection will concurrently open to the public its museum in Paris, the Bourse de Commerce, and will also present an important exhibition dedicated to Bruce Nauman at Punta della Dogana in Venice.
The distinctive character of the project lies in the encounter of Koons’s works with the Mucem’s collections. Each artwork is specifically linked to a set of objects belonging to the museum, sparking a conversation sometimes formal, sometimes symbolic or poetic, between major works by Jeff Koons and the Mucem’s collections. This experience allows for an unprecedented re-examination of the Mucem’s collections: Koons revisits their history, plays with their plasticity and interpretation, returning to the aesthetic of the object and sometimes re-conferring them with a form of contemporaneity and remodelling their meaning, taking the visitor on a free and spontaneous journey.
The objects chosen from the collections are the result of long and meticulous work in the Mucem archives. Jeff Koons explored all the resources available in order to select everyday objects, masterpieces of traditional art, documents and photographs, so as to pay tribute to the richness of the collections. The final selection covers more than 300 pieces and was nurtured by discussions on the meaning of those objects, their use, and their form, in order to invite the visitor to this exhibition on a contemplative walk where the beauty emerges from the object itself and resonates with the artist’s gaze.
The installation designed for the project proposes a unique means of showing the artist's work emphasising the links forged with the Mucem collections. “Jeff Koons Mucem” opens with New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon Doubledecker (1981), embodying the predominant approach of The New series, a vacuum cleaner is displayed in an acrylic case facing one of the Mucem’s “unité écologique”, an historically important museographic device of the former museum of folk-arts and popular traditions. The exhibition path concludes with the monumental Bluebird Planter (2010-2016), from the Antiquity series, a mirror-polished stainless steel work with transparent colour coating, seemingly blown-up from a small porcelain original, engaging with a wide selection of bird-shaped works such as bird calls, roof ornaments and other decorative objects.
After “ Un génie sans piédestal, Picasso et les arts et traditions populaires ” or “ Jean Dubuffet, un barbare en Europe ”, “ Jeff Koons Mucem. Works from the Pinault Collection ” continues on the museum's legacy of exhibitions dedicated to the legendary artists who give meaning to the societies they contemplate.
Elena Geuna, independent exhibition curator, author and artistic consultant
Emilie Girard, head custodian for heritage, and scientific and collections director of the Mucem
All of the works by Jeff Koons presented in this exhibition are on loan from the Pinault Collection with the exception of Bourgeois Bust - Jeff and Ilona, which was kindly made available to the Mucem by the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Concurrently, the Pinault Collection’s edition is on display in Rennes as part of the exhibition “Beyond Colour. Black and White in the Pinault Collection”.