NEW YORK (AFP) - Jeff Koons, one of world's highest paid artists, unveiled his life work in New York today, a chance to understand why his art is so celebrated, so loathed and so expensive.
The Whitney Museum has devoted its entire four-floor premises to New York's first retrospective of a 35-year career that sent Koons, the "king of kitsch," into the celebrity stratosphere.
Last year his Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for US$58.4 million (S$73 million) - the most money for any work by a living artist and the most for a contemporary sculpture.
Koons, 59, revelled in the rock-star reception at the press preview for his retrospective. "I'm enjoying every moment of this," he said. "I believe completely in the work that we have here, and I hope other people can find meaning in it."
He said he hopes to have another three decades, "maybe more," to create art - which many will interpret as a clear nod to his hero Pablo Picasso, who worked until his death in his 90s. "I really believe in art, I really believe in the transcendence it's given me... and it's taught me how to enjoy ideas and also experience this very ephemeral realm of ideas."
The retrospective of 150 works runs till Oct 19, when it will move to Paris.
It is the American art museum's last exhibition before moves downtown to gleaming new premises.
The intention is to view his art as a whole, trace its evolution and gain a deeper understanding of how the iconic pieces, such as Made In Heaven and Balloon Dog, fit into the whole. More than 20 years after its creation, Made In Heaven remains his most controversial work. Stepping out of the Whitney elevator, visitors are hit by the enormous lithograph of a fresh-faced, naked Koons embracing a writhing Ilona Staller, his ex-wife, dressed in fish net stockings and white lace lingerie.
Koons intended the graphic, kitsch depictions of the couple having sex to foster emancipation from shame, but they were slammed at the time, and branded "dreadful" by The Guardian newspaper this week. The Whitney director Adam Weinberg said Koons "redefined what art and an artist can be."