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Nov 25, 2014 12:36 PM

Jeff Koons' 1st European retrospective opens

The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) Paris' Pompidou Center inaugurated the first ever European retrospective on artist Jeff Koons Tuesday, the polemical 59-year-old master of kitsch, whose huge shiny, stainless-steel balloon dog broke records last year, selling at auction for $58.4 million.

The exhibit features the porcelain statue of Michael Jackson with his pet monkey, Bubbles, the simplistic inflatable mirrored rabbit that first made Koons' name in the '70s, as well as a lewd semi-pornographic image with his ex-wife, pornstar La Cicciolina.

The show spans 35 years and shows why Koons, America's highest-selling living artist, is also one of its most controversial. Parts of the exhibit are forbidden to minors.

"Koons' work, whether we accept it or not, is undoubtedly unique in provoking so much thought and debate," said the curator of the retrospective, Bernard Blistene.

It comes just months after his retrospective opened at New York's Whitney Museum for a run that saw two separate attacks on the exhibit by vandals. Last time he was in France, in 2008, an installation of 17 sculptures in the Versailles Palace, sparked sharp criticism from conservatives for despoiling the iconic site.

The arrival in France of the retrospective is, for Koons, more about a moment of personal pride.

"I owe so much to France from the beginning of my career, from studying French artists, from Manet all the way up to Marcel Duchamps. So to finally get here and see it all being put together at the Pompidou makes me proud," Koons told The Associated Press during the preparations for the show.

References to France-based artists pepper the show's over 200 works, from the "Inflatables," his first series, that are thought to be inspired by Duchamps' groundbreaking "readymade" objects to 2003 hanging lobster, an image closely associated with Salvador Dali.

The retrospective runs until April 27.


Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP


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