Is Jeff Koons’ Art Pornography? (18+)

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Jeff Koons has been controversial from the very beginning of his career, which began in around 1979. Having experimented with inflatable bunnies, sculptures of cheesy angels and a lot of pink, he challenges us and our pre-conceptions of art and kitsch, of what is acceptable and what is simply tasteless. In 1989 he crossed yet another line by producing a series of very sexual posters and sculptures, making us question whether his art is pornography.

Is this art or is it pornography?

Jeff Koons, Made in Heaven. 1989, Tate jeff koons pornography
Jeff Koons – art or pornography? Jeff Koons, Made in Heaven, 1989, Tate, London, UK.

The series Made in Heaven features Koons himself and the Italian porn-star Ilona Staller, also known as Cicciolina. Koons felt that in order to make the works more credible, they should be married, so they were. He employed Ilona’s regular photographer and backdrops to make the posters fit with the distinctive aesthetic associated with ‘glamour’ imagery and advertising.

Jeff Koons, Kiss With Diamonds, 199, © Jeff Koons pornography
Jeff Koons – art or pornography? Jeff Koons, Kiss With Diamonds, 1991, The Morton G. Neumann Family Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA.

Koons tries to reference other provocative paintings, such as Edouard Manet’s Olympia, and by blurring the boundaries between fine art and pornography, to examine the place of sexuality in contemporary visual culture.

Jeff Koons, Violet - Ice (Kama Sutra), © Jeff Koons, Centre Pompidou Jeff Koons pornography
Jeff Koons – art or pornography? Jeff Koons, Violet – Ice (Kama Sutra), 1991, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.

Koons produced not only posters but also a series of glass sculptures depicting him and Ilona in various sexual poses. Doesn’t it remind you of the erotic Japanese prints we wrote about? Want to give them a closer look? Visit Koon’s website.

Jeff Koons, Ilona on Top – Rosa Background, 1990 © Silvia Neri jeff koons pornography
Jeff Koons – art or pornography? Jeff Koons, Ilona on Top – Rosa Background, 1990. Silvia Neri.

The story of their marriage does not have a happy, postmodern ending. Koons expected Cicciolina to stop working in her industry after the marriage, but she didn’t want to. The couple split up and began a strenuous fight for the rights of custody to their son. Cicciolina won and moved to Italy with her son, where she continued to work.


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Is Jeff Koons’ Art Pornography? (18+) was first posted on October 3, 2020 at 5:00 pm.
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