The Artist Project: Jeff Koons on Roman sculpture

Here’s why America’s leading contemporary artist spends so much time among the Met Museum’s sculptures
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Jeff Koons photographed at The Met for our new book The Artist Project
Jeff Koons photographed at The Met for our new book The Artist Project

Is there a schism between contemporary art and its ancient, classical antecedents? Not for Jeff Koons. The connection between the ancient world and today is very intense for America's leading living artist, who has spent many hours meditating on the ancient sculptures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Marble statue group of the Three Graces, 2nd Century AD, as featured in The Artist Project
Marble statue group of the Three Graces, 2nd Century AD, as featured in The Artist Project

Asked to discuss his love of the Roman period in particular for our new book The Artist Project: What Artists See When They Look at Art, Koons remarks on how the details of pieces like The Three Graces and Hercules aren’t just faithfully naturalistic replications of the human form but intended to compete with nature itself. They constitute “a vehicle for a dialogue about life, about fertility, about procreation.” They are carriers of vital information about how to live, whose message to humanity resounds throughout eternity, works that aspire.

 

Gazing Ball (Farnese Hercules) (2013) by Jeff Koons
Gazing Ball (Farnese Hercules) (2013) by Jeff Koons
 

Koons refers to this period in his Gazing Ball series, in 2013 replica of Farnese Hercules, atop whose shoulder sits a bright blue bauble in which the viewer can see a reflection of themselves, thereby implicating in the work of art their desires and relationship with it. Koons said the gazing ball “represents the vastness of the universe and at the same time the intimacy of right here, right now.” And Hercules? Well, he takes us all a little further back.

 

The Artist Project

To find out more about the classic works that inspire contemporary artists, order a copy of The Artist Project here.


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