What is Jeff Koon’s influential vacuum series The New all about?

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Celebrity IV, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1981-1986, four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 251.5 x 135.9 x 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Celebrity IV, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1981-1986, four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 251.5 x 135.9 x 71.1 cm
Image: Sotheby’s/sothebys.com

About Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons is a quintessential neo-pop artist. It is not surprising, therefore, to find artworks made by this legendary contemporary artist fashioned from random trinkets that you would find at a neighborhood yard sale. The components used to create his pieces may not be considered fine art or sophisticated by any means.

Hybrid of fine art and popular culture

However, the end result is an ingenious transformation that has caused immense commercial success for Koons. His artwork is definitely a fine hybrid of fine art and popular culture. Anyone that analyses his pieces such as Koon’s The New, will see that his work speaks volumes about the contemporary society that we live in today.

‘The New’, 1980

Between the years of 1979 and 1980, Jeff Koon primarily worked on The New series. His works at the beginning were based on conceptual structures. The New was created in 1980 after completing his first conceptual sculpture series which he titled Pre-New. The New featured a series of vacuum cleaners from popular brand names that appealed to Koons.

Jeff Koons - Pre-New Series, New Hoover Celebrity III's, 1980, two vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 76.2 x 31.8 cm
From the Pre-New Series: Jeff Koons – New Hoover Celebrity III’s, 1980, two vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 76.2 x 31.8 cm
Photos: Whitney Museum of American Art/whitney.org

How Koons created the work

In the New, Koon stacked two unused vacuum cleaners on top of each other and sealed them hermetically in a well-lit Plexiglas box. The lighting of the fluorescent bulbs in the display window is what caused the art installation to appear like a typical display that you would find in an appliance store rather than a high-end piece of art that you would expect to find in a gallery.

Where & how did he show this work?

Koons first exhibited The New at the New Museum in New York in 1980. He opted to use only a limited combination of different vacuums. At the gallery space, Koons had arranged the vacuums vertically and displayed them as if they were in a showroom, with just the simple words the New brandished across the display.

Jeff Koons with the New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton Wet:Dry 10 Gallon Doubledecker, New York, 1991
Jeff Koons with the New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon Doubledecker, New York, 1991
Image: Sotheby’s/sothebys.com

Analysis

With this work, Koon’s use of the vacuum cleaner has a considerable significance. Through this series, he explores society’s commercialization of new appliances and commodities. Basically, he was mocking society for its fascination with new things. He was also commenting on the relationship between human beings and their commodities and how these commodities impact human behavior, their thoughts, and their sexuality.

Video: Jeff Koons discusses his series ‘The New’

3min 19sec

About the artist

Born in Pennsylvania, Jeff Koons was heavily inspired by the works of Salvador Dali at a young age. But it wasn’t until he encountered the pop art movement and Andy Warhol’s work that his artistic direction begun to take on a neo-pop approach. Regarded as both a technologist and an artist in the same breadth, Koon is credited with coming up with unique fabrication techniques that have inspired other artists all over the globe.

Photos: ‘The New’

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Convertible, 1980, Vacuum cleaner, acrylic and fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 57.2 x 57.2 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Convertible, 1980, Vacuum cleaner, acrylic and fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 57.2 x 57.2 cm
Image: Rubell Family Collection/rfc.museum

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Convertibles Green, Blue, New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue Doubledecker, 1981–7, 4 vacuum cleaners, Perspex and fluorescent lights, 251 x 137 x 71,5 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Convertibles Green, Blue, New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue Doubledecker, 1981–7, 4 vacuum cleaners, Perspex and fluorescent lights, 251 x 137 x 71,5 cm
Photos: Whitney Museum of American Art/whitney.org

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon Displaced Doubledecker, 1981–87, 4 vacuum cleaners, Perspex and fluorescent lights, 251 x 137 x 71,5 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon Displaced Doubledecker, 1981–87, 4 vacuum cleaners, Perspex and fluorescent lights, 251 x 137 x 71,5 cm
Image: Tate/tate.org.uk

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5-Gallon, Double Decker, 1981-1986, 251.5 x 104.1 x 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5-Gallon, Double Decker, 1981-1986, New Hoover Convertibles, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5-Gallon, Double Decker & two Hoover Convertibles, two Shelton Wet/Drys, acrylic and fluorescent lighting, 251.5 x 104.1 x 71.1 cm
Image: Christie’s/christies.com

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, 1980-1986, three shampoo polishers, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 91.4 x 38.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, 1980-1986, three shampoo polishers, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 91.4 x 38.1 cm
Image: Blouin Artinfo/blouinartinfo.com

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, 1980, Two shampoo polishers, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 55.9 x 38.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, 1980, Two shampoo polishers, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 142.2 x 55.9 x 38.1 cm
Image: Office/http://officemagazine.net

Jeff Koons - The New - New Shelton Wet/Drys 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5 Gallon Doubledecker, 1981-1986, four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lighting, 208.3 x 132.1 x 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Shelton Wet/Drys 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5 Gallon Doubledecker, 1981-1986, four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lighting, 208.3 x 132.1 x 71.1 cm
Image: Christie’s/christies.com

Jeff Koons - The New - New Shelton Wet/Drys Tripledecker, 1981, Three vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 316.2 x 71.1 x 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Shelton Wet/Drys Tripledecker, 1981, Three vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 316.2 x 71.1 x 71.1 cm
Image: Guggenheim Bilbao/guggenheim-bilbao.eus

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Celebrity Iv, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1986, Four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 251.5 x 135.9 x 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Celebrity IV, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1986, Four vacuum cleaners, acrylic, fluorescent lights, 251.5 x 135.9 x 71.1 cm
Image: Artnet/artnet.com

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10-gallon Displaced Tripledecker, 1981-87, Shampoo polishers, vacuum cleaner, Plexiglas, and fluorescent tubes, 231.1 × 137.2 × 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10-gallon Displaced Tripledecker, 1981-87, Shampoo polishers, vacuum cleaner, Plexiglas, and fluorescent tubes, 231.1 × 137.2 × 71.1 cm
Image: Artnet/artnet.com

Jeff Koons - The New - New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, Yellow, Brown Doubledecker, 1981-87, Three vacuum cleaners, two shampoo polishers, and fluorescent lights in Plexiglas casing, 82 5/8 x 54 x 28 in
Jeff Koons – New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, Yellow, Brown Doubledecker, 1981-87, Three vacuum cleaners, two shampoo polishers, and fluorescent lights in Plexiglas casing, 210 x 137 x 71 cm
Image: Tim Nighswander/artandseek.org

Jeff Koons - The New - New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1981, Vacuum cleaners, plexiglass, and fluorescent lights, 245.4 x 71.1 x 71.1 cm
Jeff Koons – New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1981, Vacuum cleaners, plexiglass, and fluorescent lights, 245.4 x 71.1 x 71.1 cm
Image: MoMA/moma.org

Jeff Koons - The New - Exhibition Jeff Koons - Now, Installation view at Newport Street Gallery, 2016
Jeff Koons – The New at Jeff Koons: Now, installation view at Newport Street Gallery, 2016
Image: Prudence Cuming Associates, © Victor Mara Ltd/newportstreetgallery.com

All images by Jeff Koons/jeffkoons.com unless otherwise noted.

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