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Jeff Koons. New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker. 1981

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Jeff Koons (American, born 1955)

New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker

Vacuum cleaners, plexiglass, and fluorescent lights
8' 5/8" x 28" x 28" (245.4 x 71.1 x 71.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser
MoMA Number:
© 2015 Jeff Koons

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 29

Two immaculate, unused wet/dry vacuum cleaners are stacked one atop the other and hermetically sealed in Plexiglas boxes lit from below with fluorescent lights. Separated from their domestic role as cleaning machines, the objects are elevated to sculpture. "I chose the vacuum cleaner because of its anthropomorphic qualities," Koons has said. "It is a breathing machine. It also displays both male and female sexuality. It has orifices and phallic attachments." The curving armature of the hose circles the canister in an embrace, and the machine's bold maroon and gold stripes are colorful flourishes within an otherwise sterile environment.

In his varied professional past, Koons has sold memberships for MoMA and worked as a commodities broker on Wall Street. As an artist he blends the worlds of advertising, commerce, and high culture to alter the way we perceive quotidian objects and to question the boundary between art and popular culture. Like Andy Warhol with his Campbell's Soup cans and Brillo boxes, Koons elevates artifacts from everyday life, transforming mundane consumer appliances into immortal art objects. He leaves their interpretation up to the viewer.

Audio Program excerpt 2013

Director, Glenn Lowry: At a 2004 lecture at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, artist Jeff Koons discussed what attracted him to using vacuum cleaners in his work.

Artist, Jeff Koons: After doing different objects, toasters, and humidifiers, refrigerators, eventually I realized that it was just arty; it was decorative, and I really wasnt adding anything to the history of the ready-made.

Glenn Lowry: The term "Ready-made" was coined in 1915 by artist Marcel Duchamp to describe everyday, often mass-produced objects that he designated as art.

Jeff Koons: I had this idea of encasing the pieces and letting them just display their integrity of birth, their newness, and treating them like eternal virgins. I would just use cool white fluorescent display light, and then encase it.

I always liked the way they would communicate with each other. If you would put two of them side by side how they would interact with information back and forth, or how they would relate to another design vacuum cleaner. And also they would always have anthropomorphic qualities. Theyre breathing machines, sucking machines. And so you can look at them sexually in different ways.

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