Flight of the Balloon Dog: Jeff Koons leaves Gagosian and David Zwirner galleries for Pace

Flight of the Balloon Dog: Jeff Koons leaves Gagosian and David Zwirner galleries for Pace

Jeff Koons
Courtesy of Pace. Photo: Branislav Jankic

The world’s most expensive living artist, Jeff Koons, will now be represented exclusively worldwide by Pace gallery, having left David Zwirner and Gagosian which have sold his work for years.

The American artist, known for his high-shine “inflatables” sculpture—one of which, Rabbit, sold for $91.1m (including fees) in 2019, making him the most expensive living artists at auction—appears to have had something of a professional epiphany during the long lonely months of the pandemic.

“Sometimes professionally in life we can find ourselves at a crossroads,” Koons says in a statement. “Going through the last year or so and having the opportunity to reflect on what I would like to achieve with my life’s work in order to bring it to its fullest potential, I have decided that a change in the environment in which my work is viewed and supported would be a positive thing at this time. I have known Marc [Glimcher] for decades and I’ve decided that Pace Gallery feels like an exciting situation for me and my work. The most important thing to me is the production of my work and to see these artworks realised so that they can be exhibited and viewed.”

Jeff Koons with Larry Gagosian in 2013
Photo: David Owens

Koons tells The New York Times that he had told Larry Gagosian and David Zwirner of his decision in letters sent last Friday and says: “I always liked the idea of having more of a home gallery, that if people were interested in work they would know directly where to go.” He added that this move might be a clean break from some of the controversies that have surrounded his work, perhaps an inevitability for artists whose work commands such high sums and has become an emblem of the hyper-commercialised art market of the 21st century.

Both Zwirner and Gagosian have been involved in court cases with collectors over sales of Koons’s work in the past decade. A case brought by the Italian dealer Fabrizio Moretti against Zwirner regarding the differing dimensions of a work was dismissed in 2016, while the collector Steven Tananbaum settled with Gagosian and Koons’s studio in a lawsuit brought in 2018 over the alleged non-delivery of three Koons works.

Pace’s first show with Koons will be an exhibition of sculpture at the gallery’s Palo Alto space next year, followed by a show of new work at the vast New York space in 2023.

But before then, Koons has a host of institutional shows: next month (5 May), Jeff Koons Mucem: Works from the Pinault Collection opens at Mucem, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, in Marseille, France; this autumn, Jeff Koons: Shine will open at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, apparently “exploring Koons’s reference to philosophy using shiny, reflective surfaces” and in Doha this November, Qatar Museums will mount Jeff Koons: Lost in America.

Glimcher says of Koons: “Jeff changed the way we see the world around us and the way we understand our culture and ourselves. He perceived a cultural shift decades before any of us knew it was underway by propelling through the barrier of elitism that was ring-fencing the art world.”

David Zwirner tells The Art Newspaper: “Working with Jeff has been an immense privilege. We wish all involved in his next chapter the best of luck.”

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