Popeye and a poodle, an inflatable balloon dog and more than you will ever need to know about the artist’s most intimate conjugal moments. All this in one place, in a single show – it’s a lot to chew on. Is it mercantile or pure? Is it vulgar and empty, or deceptively meaningful? One thing’s for certain, given that this exhibition features some of the world’s most recognisable contemporary art, and judging by the crowds filing through it, the Jeff Koons retrospective is a veritable blockbuster.

The exhibition is presented in chronological sequence, and this makes it easier to appreciate the ability of the artist to encapsulate the ethos of each moment. The show, which starts with his ‘pre-new’ vacuum cleaners and leads visitors past the stainless-steel bust of Louis XIV then a golden Michael Jackson and Bubbles the monkey, culminates in a garden of suburban mythology where antiquity meets glistening kitsch. The absolute mirrored perfection of the inflatables – of all the pieces, actually – reflects Koons’ uncompromising eye for detail.

Art isn’t limited to the skill of the execution, it must start elsewhere – it lies in the way that an artist sees the world and it’s in this respect that Koons’ work shines. This is how the Pennsylvania-born iconoclast sees the world around him, and he certainly doesn’t hold back. In the mirrored surfaces of his work we see our own reflection, as if he was daring us to look from our own perspective, and discover our own answers therein.

Tip: The exhibition includes a section titled Made in Heaven which includes explicit images that aren’t suitable for all.

Jeff Koons. Until April 27 at Centre Pompidou, 19 rue Beaubourg, Paris 4th. Métro: Rambouteau, Hôtel de Ville, Châtelet. Open daily 11am-10pm. Closed Tuesdays. Entry is €13. Tel: +33 1 44 78 12 33

From France Today magazine

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