“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. 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.
The artist’s crowning achievement from the body of work is Jim Beam J.B. Turner Engine, a 9.5-foot-long model of a steam engine that’s loaded with bottles of whiskey. “I find it a very powerful image,” Koons said. “An image about progress, about future, about strength.” As always, Koons hovers on the edge of sincerity: his inspiration for the artwork was not an actual locomotive, but rather a kitschy decanter in the shape of one. He included an image of the Jim Beam sculpture in a set of three photolithographs named for the series. The Luxury & Degradation portfolio (1986) depicts the artist’s renditions of the steam engine, a Baccarat crystal set and a fisherman golfer figurine. Scroll down to see the works and learn more.
Above: Jeff Koons, by Andrew Burton AFP.
Luxury and Degradation
photolithograph (portfolio of three prints)
32 x 24 in. each
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