It was the late 1800s when in France a group of artists, then gone down in history as the Impressionists, revolutionized the art field freeing from the dictatorship of the powerful Academie française founded by Cardinal Richelieu in 1600 and until then considered the sole holder of the power to define what works could be considered to all intents and purposes "art" and who was worthy to be called “artist”. The Impressionists not only invented an alternative market for their works (rejected by the Academie) but also real promotional and advertising strategies radically changing the art scene from then on. In the contemporary world for the artists there is no more an Academie from which emancipate. There are in its stead art dealers, curators and an international market to which the artists claim their own freedom and autonomy.
In a highly individualized society such as the contemporary one the revolutions are no longer the leitmotif of a group or a movement but of an individual. This is the case of the famous and controversial American artist Jeff Koons, the protagonist of an extraordinary retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York from 27 June to 19 October, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris from 26 November 2014 to 27 April 2015, and at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao from June 5 to September 27, 2015. His history is very emblematic not only as an embodiment of the American dream but also as a new approach to the art world capable of reconciling culture and economy (two elements dissociated and opposed with the arrival of Modernity), to reconcile popular culture and art, to approach and engage the public with a pop minimalist style really original with reference to the ready-made tradition. An approach that does not separate but put in contact, that does not confuse but seduce, that mixes our weaknesses and the kitsch that surrounds us with a subtle and indirect social analysis. Koons in fact, knowing well our weaknesses has given us in his works the most desirable objects and subjects (the vacuum of the last generation, the bunny in stainless steel, the reassuring strength of Popeye or the Incredible Hulk) with a participation and a seductive force that at some point also he confused reality and fiction marrying the porn star Cicciolina - Ilona Staller and immortalized in his artworks their much-discussed marriage.
Son of an interior decorator and a seamstress Koons rose through the ranks by selling door-to-door after school gift-wrapping paper to research the economic autonomy to study and experience becoming an original and ironic observer of the American way of life, capable to transform everyday banality in artistic perfection, in monuments, in artworks. Trained in a cultural climate in which prevailed highly charismatic figures such as Beuys, a sort of artist-prophet, and a disparaging and critical attitude about the market, Koons develops different ideas influenced perhaps by his new activities as broker in Wall Street. For Koons in fact "art does not mean knowing how to do one thing, but knowing how to sell it”. A concept which summarizes the cultural and historical passage of our society: the appearance prevails over the substance. Jeff Koons understood it immediately using it as the basis of his artistic production. The genius of Jeff Koons combined with a meticulous research not only about fickle desires but also techniques and materials of last generation as well as an innate predisposition for the communication and the relationships allowed him to abandon the role of broker to turn in the living artist with the highest market prices and a global success with the public and media attention for nothing different from that reserved for the big rock star or Hollywood stars.
Jeff Koons is the first artist in history to manage his production in a managerial and autonomous way revolutionizing the art system, its rules and institutions and achieving success with only the secondary and marginal help of traders and dealers. With Koons begins a new era of contemporary art where the artist is not a tool but a subject capable of imposing its ideas and thoughts with or without the help of dealers, collectors and curators. Koons is not an accomplice in the international art system as some mistakenly think but he is really the embodiment of freedom because he is able to control and manipulate it with his ideas and values. This is the key to freedom and the autonomy of art. This is the key with which Koons revolutionized the field of international art.