Jeff Koons – Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988
Ceramic, 106.7 x 179.1 x 82.5 cm
There have been many stars and singers that have contributed to music in many progressive ways. Yet no one comes close to the influence that the iconic Michael Jackson has left on the music industry. Imagery of him is fairly well known. The pop-culture icon has been seen in various stages of his life and career, physically ever-changing in front of our eyes. Jeff Koons created a famous life-sized porcelain sculpture depicting the now late and legendary Michael Jackson leaning back on a flower bed while on his lap rests his pet chimpanzee Bubbles who holds a white cloth. Jackson and Bubbles wear similar clothing, and are colored similarly while parts of their bodies mirror with each other.
Bubbles, the real life chimpanzee, was purchased by Jackson from a Texas research facility in 1985. He was a very important figure in the eyes of Michael and became a constant sight at almost all of Michael Jackson’s performances and concert arenas and cities. Koons used a press photo of Jackson and Bubbles for his sculpture, and it is nearly indistinguishable to the photo.
When the porcelain sculpture was first revealed, Koons produced three editions, many of Jackson’s fans were offended by how the porcelain made Jackson appear white and feminine (although there doesn’t seem to be any complaints about his hair being gold…). Koons however, really doesn’t care about the complaints and criticism over Jackson’s gender neutral appearance within this piece. The art, he believes, transcends gender- as Koons explains, Jackson is the contemporary Apollo.
In this piece Jackson is that of a Greek god, beautiful and golden- considering that this was created in 1988 it is ironic considering the way that M.J has been immortalized as pop royalty, who may have passed physically, but has transcended in space and time through his music and dance. Bubbles looks wise and all-knowing as he sits on M.J’s lap and gazes at the audience while Jackson gazes lovingly at his companion.
This piece now is a beautiful representation of Jackson’s younger days before he was othered by some and deified by others. The gold almost depicts a time when anything MJ touched turned to gold.
In total three editions of Michael Jackson and Bubbles came into existence, all three can be found separately at the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and another one in Athens.
Jeff Koons next to his artwork Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988
Ceramic, 106.7 x 179.1 x 82.5 cm, at Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, 2012