Koons at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery – the glamour of it all
Jeff Koons, master of the giant inflatable balloon sculpture and maker of the multicolour Play-Dough mountain, was toying with us in London again. Taking centre stage at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery Koons was a triumph for Hirst and a visual feast for all. Undoubtedly the duo have put on the shiniest show in town this year.
Jeff Koons Now @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Sparkling with glitz and glamour Jeff Koons ‘NOW’ is a representative sample of an almost complete retrospective. Charting Koons career from the early illustrious Hoovers through the giant blurry porn pieces to his celebrated balloon works. The opening in May coincided with my birthday weekend which was reason enough for me to take a trip up to London for a viewing.
Jeff Koons Play-Dough @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Now @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Imagine my surprise when en route I dropped into Koenig, my favourite London bookshop, and when discussing my reason for my current visit the shop assistant told me that although he was a huge admirer of the work of Koons he probably couldn’t be bothered to take a trip across the city to see the show in person. He went on to say that he was happy enough seeing the content online. In disregarding this exhibition he has missed seeing an important body of work by one of the most important living contemporary artists of today and if he never did get around to making the effort I am sure will be forever regretting it, such is the modern world.
With almost all of the pieces on show coming from Damien Hirst’s own private collection, some never seen in public before and spanning several decades ‘NOW’ is as glamorous as art gets. From the selection of 1980 Hoovers, through mid eighties period ‘Equilibrium’ series noted for the sculptures of basketballs suspended in tanks of salt water and on to the later inflatable and balloon art there was plenty on show. Including some works from the series of explicit large scale images featuring the ex wife (and porn actress) of Koons, Ilona Staller, aka La Cicciolina, which they made together, sensibly exhibited in their own space in a separate gallery.
Jeff Koons Boy With Pony @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons uses multidisciplinary methods to produce his art. Aided by his studio staff of more than 100 technicians, and in a similar vein to Andy Warhol, he explores the themes of consumerism and mass production. Although he does not see his output as being influenced by Warhol, and notwithstanding the similarities with Warhol’s Factory setup, there is obviously more than a cursory connection between the work of the two artists. Not least of which is Koons’ preoccupation with the superficiality of the common object. Also his blatant exploitation of sexual fetishism. It could also be argued that few artists have manufactured and managed Warhol’s contradictory characteristics of public persona as convincingly as Jeff Koons.
Throughout his career he has been masterful in harnessing the space around his art to give it energy and the Newport Street Gallery adds power and emotion.
Jeff Koons Inflatable Flowers (Short White, Tall Purple) @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Kiepenkerl @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons New Rooomy Toyota Family Camry @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Seal Walrus (Chairs) @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Acrobat @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Hoovers @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Balloon Monkey @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Centrepiece of the show, cute and innocent yet seductively provocative with its ultra-shiny smooth curves immortalised in mirror polished and colour coated stainless steel, is the giant magenta Balloon Monkey. One of a series of five produced, each finished in a different colour.
Jeff Koons Elephant @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Basketballs @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
The Art Glitterati
Newport Street Gallery is the new jewel in London’s glitterati art crown. It joins the select ranks of the city’s growing fine independent gallery spaces alongside the likes of the Saatchi and the most excellent White Cube in Bermondsey with its 58,000 sq ft of internal space (being one of Jay Jopling’s trio of galleries – two of which are located in London and one in Hong Kong) . These are compelling art spaces where you just want to spend time, regardless of the art on offer.
Whilst I am a huge fan of The Tate Modern these three are now a world away from the Tate with its stuffy archaic attitude towards the public and also their own members. Indeed their hostility towards the photographing of displayed artworks was why I did not renew my Tate Membership last year. I will remain a non member until they adopt a more sensible policy on the use of casual photography in their galleries. A policy which is more in tune with the 21st century would be more appropriate. Apparently back in 2012 The Tate Modern didn’t even allow Damien to drink a coffee in the gallery when he was installing the artwork for his own exhibition there.
Everything about Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery is a complete contrast. The staff that I met were all courteous and helpful and a real credit to his organisation. The gallery itself is a striking conversion of three listed Victorian warehouse buildings in the most unlikely location in Vauxhall. Set opposite and at the end of a road full of under the arches lock ups and units the gallery is a work of art in itself. Designed by architects Caruso St John and clad in beautiful tones of pale brickwork. This is a perfect space for art. Complete with fabulous feature winding staircases and topped with an imaginative saw-tooth roof. It’s also a most worthy winner of the highly coveted RIBA 2016 Stirling Prize for the UK’s best new building.
Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Kudos to Damien for giving something quite magnificent back to the community which is a positive contribution to the arts and architecture.
Staircase @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Jeff Koons Hoover @ Damien Hirst Newport Street Gallery
Entry to the gallery is free and the taking of photographs is allowed.
Jeff Koons’ work is beautifully aesthetic and synthetic in equal measures.
‘NOW’ is in the final days but is still running until the weekend, full details here