Jeff Koons Balloon Dog

How bright is the new exhibition by Jeff Koons?

By Region Central Italy Culture News

Shine is the new exhibition by Jeff Koons, held in the Strozzi Palace in Florence until 30th January 2022.

American contemporary artist Jeff Koons is the latest artist exhibited at the Strozzi Palace. His works were last exhibited in Florence in 2015, when he was given the keys to the city. He was also made an honorary professor of sculpture at the fine arts academy of Carrara in 2019. Is it any wonder then, we have a new exhibition dedicated to him, with a collection of his most important works being loaned from various international museums.

Early Life

Raised in Pennsylvania, Jeff Koons started taking art lessons at the age of 7. His father worked as an interior decorator, and as a young boy Jeff would help his father in the furniture shop. It was through this experience that Jeff learnt about aesthetics, how colours and textures can change the way you feel.

A defining moment for Jeff was whilst at college. In his first art history lesson, he realised art isn’t just about aesthetics but also philosophy, sociology, psychology, and physics. As we see later in his Equlibrium series in 1985, physics was integral to his art. He even consulted with the Nobel Laureate physicist Richard P Feynman in order to suspend a basketball within a tank. The basketball represents an embryo, pre-birth, the metaphysical.

Celebrated Works

Shine features many of Jeff Koons’s most memorable works, such as The Monkey installed in the courtyard of the Strozzi Palace, his stainless steel rabbit, and his J.B Turner train, which highlighted how alcohol advertisements use different levels of luxury and abstraction to lure in different socioeconomic groups. Plus, many of his pieces from the Celebration series of the 1990’s, which represent occasions in life that we celebrate for example birthdays. Hence the objects seemingly made from balloons but in fact made from heavy metals.


Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp are all names associated with Jeff Koons. At the age of 17, after cold-calling him, Jeff met the Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, as evidenced by the posed photographs of Dali taken by the young artist. Jeff also worked as an assistant to the American artist Ed Paschke, known for his colourful images and references to Pop Culture; he became his inspiration and mentor. Ed Paschke stated that “They either love it or hate it but rarely are they indifferent to it.”

Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made art from manufactured objects, Jeff began his Inflatables series. This consisted of inflatable flowers, elephants and panda bears, objects that he viewed as similar to us. As individuals we are also inflatable, we take a breath which is a symbol of life of optimism and hope, and exhale which is a symbol of death.

In 1988 Jeff’s art focused on popular imagery, celebrity and advertisements, which inevitably drew parallels with Andy Warhol.

Love or Loathe

Jeff Koons, is an artist who divides critics. For some he is a genius, whilst others view his art as empty and puerile.
Often criticised for not physically making his creations, more than 100 asssistants make Koons’s art. However, he rebukes this notion stating he is responsible for every aspect: its size, form and brushstroke – he is in charge of the vision.

Jeff Koons is the most commercially successful artist alive. He is in the enviable position of having a group of collectors who love his work, including the British contemporary artist Damian Hirst. They pay vast amounts of money to own his works; his balloon dog was bought for 58.4 million. This enables him to continue with his creations which are very expensive to produce. The question often asked of Koons is, is his art all about the money?

Your Decision

Jeff Koons once said that art is about freedom and exercising that freedom. So it begs the question, will you exercise your freedom and visit the exhibition?

Tickets are available at the Palazzo Strozzi website, here.

Sarah Cater is an official tour guide in the city of Florence.

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