Every week, discover stories, anecdotes and secrets from the greatest artists in the history of art! KAZoART invites you on a tour of the exciting lives of our favourite painters and sculptors. Today, we look at the buzz surrounding controversial contemporary artist Jeff Koons, whose work still attracts its critics, despite its distinction…

Jeff Koons, the “pop” artist

Jeff Koons might be the most expensive living artist in the world, but he is rarely far from controversy. Renown is often, of course, a double-edged sword. Deemed overpriced, commercial and provocative by his detractors, Koons is nonetheless a great art connoisseur and has, over the years, developed a very commercial and quite unique body of work.

His art, often deemed kitsch or neo-pop, borrows American icons and objects from everyday life and childhood. Though his work is extremely popular with rich collectors, Koons has said that he aims to make his art accessible to everyone. As a well-renowned figure active for many years, he has of course come under fire on several occasions…

jeff koons kazoart

Accusations of plagiarism

Jeff Koons has been accused of plagiarism on several occasions and of taking inspiration for his work from other artists without asking for permission. In 2014, shortly before the start of his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, he was, for example, accused of using a photograph from French photographer Jean-François Bauret to create the sculpture Naked, which was part of the Banality series he began in 1988. The wife of the deceased photographer took Koons to court in a trial that began in January 2017…

Not long before, the artist had also run into trouble with the designer of a 1985 ad for Naf-Naf, whose image—and the name Fait d’Hiver—he had used to create a sculpture. It was difficult for the courts to deem the act theft of intellectual property as the property in question was an advert… the very basis of Pop Art.

 Jeff Koons, Fait d’hiver, and the Naf-Naf ad campaign
Jeff Koons, Fait d’hiver, and the Naf-Naf ad campaign

Scandale à Versailles

In 2008, Jeff Koons was invited to exhibit 17 artworks in the rooms of the Palace of Versailles. At the time, a number of people voiced their concern at seeing so-called poor-taste pop art displayed in the royal rooms. The artist’s personality also got tongues wagging due to the often sexual connotations of his artworks and his marriage to a porn star… he was quite a risqué figure to be exhibited in such a sacred location as Versailles! The French National Writers’ Union (UNIEF) even wrote to the President of the Republic to request “an immediate end to the scandal of the Jeff Koons Versailles exhibition, which [was] an offense to the Republic’s legitimate emblems and [harmed] France’s vital interests”…

 Jeff Koons at Versailles, Balloon Dog
Jeff Koons at Versailles, Balloon Dog (Magenta) an Lobster

In 2016, Koons once again courted controversy when he gifted the City of Paris a monumental sculpture (Bouquet of Tulips) in tribute to the victims of the attacks of 13 November 2015. The US Ambassador suggested displaying the work on the forecourt between the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art and Palais de Tokyo. The location of the future artwork itself was a problem, and the artist was accused of trying to advertise and attract attention for himself by choosing such a prestigious location… that had no relation to the site of the attacks.

Many felt he was trying to take advantage of the unfortunate events and to monopolize a public space. Not to mention, the Paris City Council itself was responsible for funding the future artwork’s production and installation… Stay tuned for the outcome!

 Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips
Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips

Explore our collection of Pop Art and sculptures on KAZoART!