DescriptionJeff Koons (b. 1954)
Ice Bucket, 1986
Cast stainless steel
9-1/4 x 7 x 12 inches (23.5 x 17.8 x 30.5 cm)
Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, California;
Anita Reiner, acquired from the above, 1986;
Estate of the above, 2013;
Heritage Auctions, New York, May 2, 2016, lot 69227;
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, California, "Luxury and Degradation," July 19-August 16, 1986;
[The above exhibition also traveled to] International With Monument Gallery, New York, October, 1986;
Faggionato Fine Arts, London, "Object/Sculpture/Object," October 9-November 24, 2000 (another example exhibited);
Gimpel Fils, London,"The (Ideal) Home Show," July 11-September 8, 2001, (another example exhibited);
Dickinson Roundell Inc., New York, "Aftershock: The Legacy of the Readymade in Post-War and Contemporary American Art," May 5-June 20, 2003, (another example exhibited);
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway, "Jeff Koons: Retrospective," April 9, 2004-December 12, 2004, (another example exhibited);
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, "Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,"June 27-October 19, 2014;
Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York, "Meet Me Halfway: Selections from the Anita Reiner Collection," February 26-April 4, 2015.
A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 77, no. 14;
R. Rosenblum, ed., The Jeff Koons Handbook, London/New York, 1992, p. 157;
Dickinson Roundell, Inc., ed., Aftershock: The Legacy of the Readymade in Post-War and Contemporary American Art, New York, 2003, p. 87, no. 37, another example illustrated;
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Art, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, Oslo, 2004, p. 41, another example illustrated;
Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Madrid, 2009, pp. 198 and 207, another example illustrated;
Whitney Museum of American Art, Scott Rothkopf, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, New York, 2014, p. 79, pl. 37.
This work comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the artist's studio.
Ice Bucket (1986) embodies key themes that characterize the work of Jeff Koons, from luxury and consumption to culture and sexuality. Part of Koons's Luxury and Degradation series, Ice Bucket centers around the consumption of alcohol. This series also includes models of a travel bar and of pick-up trucks and barrel cars used to transport bourbon, as well as oil paintings reproducing advertisements of liquor brands. In theory, the stainless steel sculpture could function as a literal ice bucket; as such, it alludes to Marcel Duchamp's readymades and the absence of a distinction between art and non-art. However, if Ice Bucket only operated on this level, it would cease being an artwork. Compared to Duchamp, Koons "uses objects that are already a little closer to art, or at least to design, and that are defined not as much by their function as by their audience, their market.... They are highly charged and meant to fulfill emotional and psychological needs" (J. Caldwell, "Jeff Koons: The Way We Live Now," in Jeff Koons, 1992, p.10).
Clearly, Ice Bucket confirms Koons's interest in luxury. Appropriating a subject from popular American culture, Ice Bucket explores the ways in which objects both signify specific lifestyles and reproduce their appeal. Koons employs the polished stainless steel material of Ice Bucket throughout the whole series, and he describes this medium as "fake luxury" and "the material of the proletariat" (Koons quoted in ibid., p.65). Using stainless steel in combination with advertisements communicates a fascination with "the ambition of upward mobility.... Luxury and Degradation reflects harshly on the pretensions of the middle classes" (J. Lewis, "A Modest Proposal," in Jeff Koons, 1992, p. 19).
Like Andy Warhol, Koons here effects an intricate relation between consumer culture and the art world. Luxury and Degradation immediately followed the series The New and Equilibrium, for which he appropriated vacuum cleaners and basketballs, sometimes placing the latter within half-filled water banks in a clear reference to conceptual art. "Luxury and Degradation...both evokes and frustrates this liquid desire...; rather than displaying their contents, [these works] closely reflect us and our desires" (J. Caldwell, op. cit., pp. 11-12).
In addition, the concept of desire gives form to Ice Bucket. The sculpture not only suggests upward mobility, but also male power by hinting at the idealized figure of the successful professional who consumes bourbon. In Koons's work, this figure of success (which he personifies) is accompanied by a submissive woman; for example, in the explicit series Made in Heaven, 1989-1991, he represents himself having sex with his future wife, porn star Ilona Staller. Koons has stated that his goal is to show viewers that "they don't have to live with unfulfilled desire" (J. Bankowsky, "Pop Life," in Pop Life: Art in a Material World, 2009, p.27). And yet one can read his work precisely as revealing his permanently unfulfilled desire for "mainstream relevance" (ibid., p. 25) - a yearning expressed in the series of "advertisements for his 1988 show Banality, [which] promoted the artist himself as a new kind of celebrity" (S. Rothkopf, "Made in Heaven: Jeff Koons and the Invention of the Art Star," in Pop Life: Art in a Material World, 2009, p. 39).
Desire is, in fact, the central theme of Koons's work. Ice Bucket embodies a Duchampian paradox: it is and always will be empty. Too, it foregrounds the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's concept of the "objet petit a," or an unattainable object of desire (whose unfulfillable quest guides our actions). Like the erotic Made in Heaven sculptures, Ice Bucket "shows us is the moment when the fantasies fall away" (J. Caldwell, "Jeff Koons: The Way We Live Now," in Jeff Koons, 1992, p.14). The art historian Andreas Beyer, underscoring Koons's obsession with desire, suggests that "what comes about repeatedly in all of [his] works...is the looking for the one and only work, the work in which all art is contained and preserved" ("All in One - Jeff Koons and the Sum of Art," in Jeff Koons: The Sculptor, 2012, p.24).
Ultimately, Ice Bucket exposes the interdependence between artworks and commodities, which further reiterates the validity of a psychoanalytic interpretation. Indeed, Brian Wallis discusses Koons's work as fetishistic in its exaggeration of the work of art to the expense of "the object's use value" and in its revealing of the "intense incompatibility of the rare bourgeois art object and mass-produced consumer goods" ("We Don't Need Another Hero: Aspects of the Critical Reception of the Work of Jeff Koons," in Jeff Koons, 1992, p. 29). Reminding "us of art's (and our own) ambivalent but deeply embedded relation to the market" (ibid.), Koons's work functions "as a grand 'readymade'..., producing a meta-level of awareness about [the] machinations and effects [of the late capitalist economy]" (C. Wood, "Capitalist Realness," in Pop Life: Art in a Material World, 2009, p.62).
Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000.
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