Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson – A Modern King Tut?

Michael Jackson and Bubbles

Jeff Koons, one of the most controversial, and respected, artists of our time, is set to launch his first British solo exhibition in London this week at the Serpentine Gallery.

He is thought to epitomise modern art but is Koons more than a little in debt to the ancients?

Graco-Roman Sex Cults

Raunchy Koons would have been well at home in one of Caesars Venus sex cults. In fact, he is reported as having said that he is inspired by the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles. An article in the Guardian reports:

‘Koons is fascinated by sex – it keeps coming into our conversation, in a conversation about beauty for instance. “If I think of the word beauty, I think of a vagina”, he replies. “I think of the vaginal – personally. That’s what comes to mind for me, or Praxiteles’ sculpture, the ass…” The ass he’s referring to is that of the Venus of Knidos, carved by the ancient Greek sculptor, Praxiteles, and displayed in a temple that allowed pilgrims to view the goddess of love from all angles.’

Venuses seem to raise their bare bottoms and missing arms throughout Koons’ work, and he seems able to spot aphrodital potential in the most unlikely of places. Speaking of his sculpture Aqualung – basically a piece of diving equipment, bronzed – he said:

“This is one of the bronzes that was there to seduce as a tool for equilibrium, and this always reminded me of the venus of Willendorf. Very voluptuous with all of these curves just like the Venus, and if you turn it around in the back you have your emergency ripcord so, if you go for equilibrium and you panic, you can resurface.”

Sexy curves and handy in a life and death diving situation – bonus.

The artists 1988 life-size sculpture ‘Michael Jackson and Bubbles’ (in which both are fully clothed) was displayed for some time in the Chateau de Versailles in France. No doubt Koons got a kick out of the grand historical setting, as well as the name of the area in which the sculpture was displayed the Salon de Venus.

Jeff Koons on Versailles:

The King Tut of Our Times

But with his ornate gold gilding, mask-like face, full dress and tomb-like encasement (complete with an animal), Koons Michael Jackson looks more like King Tut than a coquettish Venus. The ancient Egyptians were well-known for their love of gold, with King Tuts golden mask being the most famous example. Michael Jackson had a similar love of the shiny stuff, and had even taken, in later years, to wearing a mask in front of his face.

A sculpture of Kate Moss by Mark Quinn also drew parallels with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks when it was revealed last October at the British Museum. It was the biggest statue to have been made entirely out of gold since ancient Egyptian times, and was displayed alongside ancient Greek goddesses in a purposeful nod to the past.

Mark Quinn on Siren (and King Tut):

See For Yourself

Koons exhibition, entitled Popeye, runs from July 2 to September 13 at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and features new work never exhibited before. If you look closely, somewhere between the aluminium pool toys and the giant lobster, you may spot some of Koons ancient world influences.

Image of Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Tybo.