MASTERPIECE LONDON 2018
Olive Oyl, 2004
ProvenanceBought directly from the Artist
Sonnabend Gallery, USA
Jeff Koons’s Olive Oyl presents an iconic female character in popular culture, its mirrored surface prompting viewers to reflect on what this image means to them. Although Olive Oyl was most often seen in small comic strips or as a diminutive figure on a television screen, Koons has catapulted her onto the wall on a grand scale, transforming her into something powerful and strange.
Koons began his Popeye Series in 2002, playing on his recurring themes of consumerism, banality, American popular culture, and the trappings of childhood. Pieces from this body of work were exhibited in the artist’s first major London exhibition, Jeff Koons: Popeye Series at the Serpentine Gallery in 2009.
Explaining his attraction to imagery from the iconic 1930s cartoon, Koons stated:
“I wanted to have a dialogue with art history and with Pop art, and also a dialogue with technology […] For me Popeye is a figure who has his limitations but there’s this sense of acceptance […] One of the lines that Popeye is known for is ‘I am what I am’ […], a symbol of the beginning of the twentieth century, and if you think of the beginning of the twentieth century, Surrealism, particularly Dalì, and Dada were really movements that dealt with self-acceptance”.
Jeff Koons is one of the leading stars of contemporary art, and his work holds numerous auction records. On 15 May 2019, Koons's Rabbit sold at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist.
Olive Oyl’s reflective surface means the viewer cannot escape seeing themselves, becoming part of the artwork in a way that recalls the working practices of the Surrealists or Dadaists. Confronted with an image of themselves, subsumed within the cartoon, the viewer is invited to question their relationship to this character, and perhaps to this view of womanhood.
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