Jeff Koons

Creator of the 17th BMW Art car

Considered to be one of the greatest contemporary artists of our generation—whether due to the astronomical price his works command, or genuine artistic significance—one thing is for certain: every piece that Jeff Koons has created, whether perceived as kitsch or avant-garde, has left a lasting impression on his viewers. Though some of his best-known pieces have been from the “Banality” series, for which he created larger-than-life balloon sculptures in various shapes, such as that of a heart or dog, the sculptures prices were far from banal at a whopping and recession-proof $25 million. Fortunately for those without deep pockets, his bodies of work are in public collections in the world’s most renowned museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which houses one of the three controversial sculptures of Michael Jackson and Bubbles (Jackson’s pet chimpanzee).

Literally always on the go, Jeff Koons’ latest project is to create the 17th BMW art car, which will race in the 24-hour Le Mans on June 13. The BMW M3 GT2 will be evocative of power, motion and light, and rendered in the artist’s signature saturated hues on a black background set against the car’s silver interior. “These cars are like life; they are powerful and there is a lot of energy. You can participate with it, add to it and let yourself [connect] with its energy. There is a lot of power under that hood, and I want to let my ideas transcend… the car—it’s really to connect with that power,” says Koons. Since 1975, celebrated pop artists have turned BMWs into art signifying a particular period, including Calder, Stella, Lichtenstein, Hockney, Warhol, Rauschenberg and Holzer. Here SOMA sits with Jeff Koons to hear more about this exciting project.

Which artists from the BMW art car series were you most inspired by?
I wanted to participate within the same material and vocabulary as Andy (Warhol) and Roy (Lichtenstein); I always appreciated what they brought to the table, and it’s another opportunity to have a dialogue with those artists. I like all the different cars, and different artists brought different things to the table. I always respected a lot how Lichtenstein could always do anything. You could give him anything to do, and he could connect it and do something special. I think Andy’s car was fantastic—to see Bob Rauschenberg work on his car, he said he wanted to put the whole world on his car. Jenny Holzer’s car is great. I felt more inspired by everybody coming together, it’s connecting with all of those artists.

What artistic process did you go through to complete this project?
It’s the same of any area I start to work on. I investigated the background and made myself familiar with the vocabulary to that moment of racing. I just followed my ideas. That’s the only thing you can do as an artist, is to follow your interest and focus on your interest, and it will take you to the area that you can find art.

Where do you draw the line between being mainstream and an artistic pioneer?
I really don’t think that I’m so mainstream… I like to feel and believe that I’m tied to the avant-garde. I’ve always enjoyed artists that represent the avant-garde, whether it’s Picasso or Duchamp, Dali, Warhol, Lichtenstein. To me they always represented the avant-garde, and if you connect to a public, and if your work is exhibited and appreciated, and you have the opportunity to have your work communicate, then you can have an interaction with your culture. I hope that’s taking place. To me art is about self-acceptance, and once you learn to accept yourself, automatically there’s a transcendence to going outward; it directs you to the acceptance of others, and everything is a metaphor for that acceptance—whether it’s working with objects, or images, or anything from the external world… [It] is a metaphor for the acceptance of others.

Jeff Koons’ BMW will be unveiled at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris on June 1, where he will officially sign his masterpiece. The car number 79 pays tribute to the ’79 Andy Warhol car, and will be permanently housed in BMW’s headquarters in Munich.

-Hillary Latos

This reading is by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Jeff Koons.

1. Likes to be in control. Likes to be in control of his love life. Is attracted to wild, eccentric, uncontrollable partners… You see the problem here.

2. Does not always get what he wants on a material level, but usually gets something interesting. Often has ambitions beyond the possible.

3. Very intuitive. Sees paths, possibilities, methods, without needing to know logical factors.

4. Quite a risk taker, and somewhat of a gambling man.

5. Sexually creative, and
thoroughly enjoys it!

6. He had a very difficult adolescence, lots of hormones, lots of confusion. Became very clear thinking and intelligent once the hormones let up.

7. Very practical, chooses goals, pursues goals, achieves goals.

8. Showed talent for career early in life. Chose early. Will retire early.

9. Good health, plenty of life force in mid life. Wears himself out a bit early, though.