The Albright-Knox was recently presented with an exclusive opportunity to exhibit a new work by Jeff Koons (American, born 1955), who is recognized for his dynamic and sometimes provocative sculptural practice. Koons made Gazing Ball (Charity) for a 2014 auction to benefit Project Perpetual, an organization that advocates for children identified as high-risk by the United Nations Foundation. Often inspired by the history of art, Koons directly based this sculpture on a painting by one of his major artistic influences: Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). La Soupe, 1902, was created at the height of Picasso’s Blue Period and depicts a little girl reaching for a steaming bowl of soup held by a second figure, possibly her mother. Alternately, this image may be read as the little girl having just handed the woman a bowl of soup. In either interpretation, the painting’s subjects are want and compassion for the impoverished and hungry. The formal relationship between Picasso’s colorful painting (on loan to the museum for this installation) and Koons’s pristine plaster sculpture is strikingly clear, yet significant differences remain. Koons augments Picasso’s imagery with three Hermès Birkin bags and a blue gazing ball—the latter a reference to the mirrored ornaments frequently found on suburban neighborhood lawns, including those around Koons’s childhood home in Pennsylvania. With the inclusion of the bags, which were donated to the artist, Koons contrasts the prevailing mood of deprivation in La Soupe with one of today’s supreme symbols of affluence.
This exhibition was organized by Godin-Spaulding Curator & Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes.