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US ARTIST TO JUDGE KEBBLE (article first published : 2005-09-9)

Internationally renowned contemporary American artist Jeff Koons is to be a judge in the forthcoming Brett Kebble Art Awards.

Kebble Awards curator Clive van den Berg has described the acquisition of Koons as one of the three judges in the competition as “a major coup for South African art”: “Jeff Koons is a superstar of the art world – one of the most gifted and controversial artists of our time.”

Awards sponsor Brett Kebble said he believed the introduction of an international judge of Koons’s stature increased the value of the Awards to the South African art community. “By agreeing to be a judge, Jeff has enhanced the Awards enormously, giving us an international dimension,” he said. “We are very pleased he agreed to take part.”

Accepting the appointment, Koons said from his New York studio, “I enjoy South Africa and its artistic culture so I am delighted that I can participate in this community in a meaningful way.”

“Koons’s work has always tested the boundaries of art, craft, public accessibility and high culture,” said co-curator Kathryn Smith. “Like The Kebble, he has a reputation for inspiring heated critical debate. We couldn’t think of a more appropriate person to engage with the issues concerning contemporary local cultural production. “South African visual arts will benefit greatly from his astute knowledge and experience in the contemporary art world.”

As young artist, Koons supported himself as a Wall Street commodities broker going on to become one of the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists

An article in the November/December issue of At the Modern, the publication of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, likens Koons to his predecessors Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, saying he is "concerned with the transformation of everyday objects into art and takes such post-modern issues as high and low culture, context, and commodification of art as the central focus of his work".

D S Baker comments in his critical essay, Jeff Koons and the paradox of a superstar's phenomenon, February 1993: “The movement from Warhol to superstar parallels the slight shift in position which allows Koons to transgress Warhol's Pop and take it a step further in order to negate the boundaries between appearance and reality, art and commodity, surface and depth.”

Koons’s work has been exhibited in major art centres around the world and is represented in virtually every important collection of contemporary art. He has lectured in many institutions, including Harvard and Yale universities and received numerous awards in recognition of his cultural achievements, including the Legion of Honour in 2001 for his contributions to strengthening links between France and the United States.

The third Brett Kebble Art Awards take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in February 2006. Other judges already announced are Julia Charlton, curator of the Wits Galleries in Johannesburg and General Manager of the Bus Factory, and artist and lecturer Frank Ledimo.

The Kebble is the largest art award in South Africa with prize money of R560,000.

Final selections will take place in Cape Town this month by a panel of independent selectors, comprising previous Kebble winner Tanya Poole; Johannesburg Art Gallery director Clive Kelner and artist Sipho Mdanda, who is also curator of Freedom Park Museum in Pretoria.




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