Pink Panther X Jeff Koons At Sotheby’s
On the evening of 10 May 2011, Sotheby’s will offer one of the most important works by Jeff Koons ever to have appeared at auction. Pink Panther from 1988 draws on many of the themes that have come to define Koons’ output and stands as one of the outstanding achievements of his illustrious career. The porcelain sculpture is the artist’s proof from an edition of three with the other examples in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and a prominent private American collection, and belongs to the artist’s iconic Banality series that includes Michael Jackson and Bubbles, Bear and Policeman and Ushering in Banality. Pink Panther will appear on the front and back covers of the sale catalogue for the spring Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York and is estimated to fetch $20/30 million.
“Together with Balloon Dog and Bunny, Pink Panther is a 20th-century masterpiece and one of the most iconic sculptures of Jeff Koons’s oeuvre,” commented Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s.
Representing the highest tier of Jeff Koons’ artistic achievement, Pink Panther is immediately identifiable as a masterpiece not only of the artist’s historic canon, but also of the epoch of recent Contemporary Art. It conflates the classic themes that define the artist’s output – materiality and artificiality, eroticism and naivety, popular culture and rarefied elitism – and is the model expression of one of the most innovative and influential artists of our times. Initially unveiled at Koons’ seminal show Banality, held at the Sonnabend Gallery, New York in 1988, Pink Panther has been emblematic of this remarkable series ever since, which is itself regarded as a landmark of Koons’ oeuvre.
In Pink Panther, the display of the woman’s semi-naked body is sensual. However, with the bizarrely incongruous cuddly Pink Panther toy clinging to this literal embodiment of carnal desire, Koons strikes an outrageous contrast between the competing powers of adult and childhood associations. Although the Pink Panther cartoon character was initially created by Hawley Pratt for the opening sequence of the eponymous 1963 film starring Peter Sellers as the bungling Inspector Clouseau, it was only after becoming the protagonist of its own 1960s television show that it entered the mainstream consciousness as a contemporary Pop icon.
The artist’s painstaking selection of media is central to the conceptual project, contributing directly to the importance of the work. The terms of its execution are flawless: the contrasting textures of the porcelain surfaces are rendered in dazzlingly vivid colours that reinforce the object’s artificiality, while the transparent glazes simultaneously evoke the fragility of thin glass and the ethereal nature of a reflective liquid.
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