Jeff Koons, ‘Luxury and Degradation Portfolio’, 1986, Zane Bennett Contemporary Art

"Everything has an opposite pole," said Jeff Koons (b. 1955) of his Luxury and Degradation sculptures. "If you just present optimism without a darker side... there's no definition of optimism." The 1986 series appropriates imagery from advertisements and memorabilia for alcoholic beverages—fertile ground to stir up ideas about class, commerce and nostalgia.

The Luxury and Degradation portfolio, a set of three photolithographs, depicts the artist's sculptures of a Fisherman Golfer, a Baccarat Crystal Set, and a Jim Beam J.B. Turner Engine.

These highly polished objects have an aura of opulence, but are in fact made from stainless steel. "To me, the stainless steel is the material of the proletarian, it’s what pots and pans are made of. It’s very hard material and it’s fake luxury," Koons explained.

Series: Luxury and Degradation

Signature: Signed, numbered, and dated colophon.

Publisher: Ilene Kurtz, New York

About Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons plays with ideas of taste, pleasure, celebrity, and commerce. “I believe in advertisement and media completely,” he says. “My art and my personal life are based in it.” Working with seductive commercial materials (such as the high chromium stainless steel of his “Balloon Dog” sculptures or his vinyl “Inflatables”), shifts of scale, and an elaborate studio system involving many technicians, Koons turns banal objects into high art icons. His paintings and sculptures borrow widely from art-historical techniques and styles; although often seen as ironic or tongue-in-cheek, Koons insists his practice is earnest and optimistic. “I’ve always loved Surrealism and Dada and Pop, so I just follow my interests and focus on them,” he says. “When you do that, things become very metaphysical.” The “Banality” series that brought him fame in the 1980s included pseudo-Baroque sculptures of subjects like Michael Jackson with his pet ape, while his monumental topiaries, like the floral Puppy (1992), reference 17th-century French garden design.

American, b. 1955, York, Pennsylvania, based in New York, New York