story by Ken Kupchick, special to The City Wire
Quick. Think of someone you know with a proverbial heart of gold. That warm feeling you get inside from thinking about them is exactly what you can expect to feel from the latest acquisition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
“Hanging Heart” by Jeff Koons is the newest art installation at the museum fittingly just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The heart is about 9 foot tall and is constructed of highly polished chromium stainless steel. Painstakingly coated with more than10 layers of a transparent yellow gold color coating, it has an astonishing finish glossier than your most favorite Christmas ornament.
The heart is adorned with a gilt contrasting and undulating magenta bow. Weighing in at 3,500 pounds, the heart is fastened to a custom mount from the ceiling. Hanging Heart took more than 6,000 man hours to create and 10 years to complete.
Despite its size and weight, the sculpture seems to float weightlessly and effortlessly above the floor. Much how love casts its spell, the viewer is entranced and warmed in the moment. As precariously fragile as love can be, the piece remains delicate. Its buoyant yet solidly grounded. With its highly reflective surface, you see yourself, others and your environment. Hopefully, all three will make you smile and feel at peace.
Hopefully you will be as good as gold to all three.
THE HEART SERIES
Between 1994 and 2006, five versions of the heart were executed to the artist’s specifications. The version acquired by Crystal Bridges was acquired directly from the artist late last year. Other versions include a blue heart with silver bow, magenta (hot pink) with gold bow, red heart with gold bow, and violet heart with gold bow.
Koons has unveiled his works over time in series, with the five hanging heart pieces being part of his “Celebration” series. The Celebration series includes major iconic themes all played out in large scale and inspired by singular celebratory milestones in life. Other iconic images in the series include Easter eggs, diamonds, balloon animals and flowers. These works are also created in five unique color versions.
"I wanted to make work that would show my son when he was older and could understand that I loved him and was thinking about him,” Koons said about the series.
Koons’ son was reared away from him in Italy following his divorce.
A HEART AT CRYSTAL BRIDGES
Regarding the acquisition by Crystal Bridges, Koons said, “I’m thrilled to have this major piece in a location in the U.S. where the sculpture will interact with the public. It offers an opportunity for many people to view the work in a space that has a sense of not only romantic but also spiritual transcendence.”
Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi said the museum had talked about obtaining a Koons piece for at least five years, since before the museum opening.
The heart is now installed at the Eleven Restaurant and serves as a gazing spot for Valentine diners. It also creates a lovely way to conclude a day of viewing art. You might just leave with a skip in your step and a song in your heart.
EXPENSIVE BUT ‘DISARMING’
A Sotheby’s spokesman previously called the Celebration series “a body of work so rare, so surreal and so beautiful” requiring “extraordinary precision, finesse and lavish attention to achieve perfection of the highest order.” A Christie’s spokesman described the piece as “both powerful and romantic – the quintessential reflection of sexuality.”
The Celebration series continues to turn heads and set records.
“Hanging Heart” rocked the art world in November 2007 when the hot pink version fetched $23.7 million at Sotheby’s. At the time, it established Koons as the priciest living artist at auction. In February of last year, Steve Wynn unveiled “Tulips” from the series at the Wynn Las Vegas after paying $33.7 million for the privilege. And again just this past November, a yet to be declared buyer paid the most ever for a sculptured work of art when “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for more than $58 million.
At a 2008 retrospective showing of his work at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Koons commented, “It’s very, very moral work, and very involved in hopefully trying to help sustain life and something which is functioning to help people. I believe the work is sincere. It tries to be disarming, and it doesn’t try to be confrontational.”