ANTINOUS THE MODERN ART ICON
ANTINOUS is the star of a new exhibition of modern art by JEFF KOONS at a major Chelsea art gallery in New York City.
A five-foot-tall plaster replica of the head of the Vatican Museum's Braschi Antinous statue looks demurely aside as a bright blue gazing ball rests atop its Dionysiac crown.
It is a highlight of the "Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball" exhibit at the David Zwirner gallery on West 19th Street in Chelsea.
With the “Gazing Ball” series at Zwirner, Mr. Koons returns to the human figure for the first time since the works that featured him and Cicciolina, who was then his wife, in flagrante delecto. But it is idealized. Each sculpture is a blazing white plaster cast — very pure — of a Greco-Roman sculpture.
The show resembles the plaster-cast collections that were once de rigueur at museums. Besides the Braschi Antinous, it includes the Farnese Hercules, which is eight and a half feet tall and an inflatable snowman that is nearly eight feet tall.
The New York Times critic wrote: "That each has affixed to it a mirrored blue ball that you might find in a suburban birdbath almost reduces the sculptures to yard ornaments, but it also gives them a visual, contemporary spark — the reflective blue is a perfect foil for the absorbent white."
A gazing ball is a mirrored sphere typically displayed atop a conical ceramic or wrought iron stand as a lawn ornament. Its size ranges from 2 to 22 inches in diameter, with the most popular gazing ball being about 12 inches (33 cm). Gazing balls were glass but can now be stainless steel, ceramic, or stained glass.
Unlike hanging friendship balls or witch balls that have a loop, gazing balls have a stem so they can securely sit in a stand. Larger sizes are difficult due to the glass weight.
Gazing balls originated in 13th century Venice where they were hand-blown by skilled Italian craftsmen.
Bavaria's King Ludwig II, who is a Saint of Antinous, adorned his Herrenchiemsee palace with lawn balls. Thereafter, they became a fixture of European gardens and are associated with Victorian era English gardens in particular.
"Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball" runs through June 29 at David Zwirner, 525 West 19th Street, Chelsea; (212) 727-2070, davidzwirner.com.