The Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University will hold an exhibition of works by American artist Jeff Koons, who rarely shows in the UK, the institution announced today. The show, which will open in February 2019, largely came together thanks to a student organization, the Edgar Wind Society for Art History, after the group named him the winner of its inaugural contemporary art prize.
“In an entirely typical way, Jeff got on a plane, flew to Oxford for the day, accepted the prize, spoke to the students, was incredibly giving of his time and incredibly gracious in every respect, and then flew back to New York that same night,” said Ashmolean director Alexander Sturgis to the Guardian. Plans for the show grew from there, he added: “It is hard to think of any other artist of the last 50 years who has such a significant and influential place in how we think about what art is today.”
It’s an unusual exhibition for the world’s oldest public museum, which rarely shows contemporary art. “Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean” follows an Andy Warhol exhibition hosted in 2016—also a decided anomaly among the museum’s programming—and is part of an effort to attract a younger audience to the institution.
Speaking to the Art Newspaper, co-curator Norman Rosenthal called the exhibition “a poetic, miniature retrospective with a concentration on recent work.”
The show will include 17 pieces by Koons, 14 of which have never been exhibited in the UK before, dating from the 1980s to the present day. The artist’s last outing in the country was at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, in London, in 2016. The Ashmolean exhibition will highlight some of Koon’s works inspired by the art historical masterpieces of the past—the kind of objects for which the museum is more typically known.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to have a dialogue about art today and what it can be,” said Koons in a statement.
Featured works will include his Balloon Venus (Magenta), 2008–12, modeled after the 30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf sculpture; and Seated Ballerina (2010–15), which Koons based on a porcelain statue produced in the Soviet Union by the Ukrainian artist Oksana Zhnikrup. There will also be seven works from Koons’s “Gazing Ball” series, in which he appends a shiny blue sphere to reproductions of famous works such as the Belvedere Torso.
“Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean” will be on view at the Ashmolean, Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, UK, February 7–June 9, 2019.
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