Is Jeff Koons’ Art Pornography? (18+)

Magda Michalska 19 October 2023 min Read

Jeff Koons has been controversial from the very beginning of his career, which began in around 1979. Having experimented with inflatable bunnies, sculptures of cheesy angels, and a lot of pinks, he challenges us and our preconceptions of art and kitsch, testing what is acceptable and what is simply tasteless. In 1989, he crossed yet another line by producing a series of very sexual posters and sculptures, making us question whether his art is pornography.

Is This Art or Is It Pornography?

The series Made in Heaven features Koons himself and the Italian pornstar Ilona Staller, also known as Cicciolina. Koons felt that in order to make the works more credible, he needed to marry Cicciolina. He employed Ilona’s regular photographer and backdrops to make the posters fit with the distinctive aesthetic associated with “glamour” imagery and advertising.

Jeff Koons, Kiss With Diamonds from Made in Heaven, 1991
Jeff Koons & Cicciolina, Kiss With Diamonds from Made in Heaven, 1991, The Morton G. Neumann Family Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

Koons tries to reference other provocative paintings, such as Édouard Manet’s Olympia, and by blurring the boundaries between fine art and pornography, to examine the place of sexuality in contemporary visual culture.

made in heaven: Jeff Koons & Cicciolina, Violet - Ice (Kama Sutra), 1991, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.
Jeff Koons & Cicciolina, Violet – Ice (Kama Sutra), 1991, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.

Koons produced not only posters but also a series of glass sculptures depicting him and Staller in various sexual poses. Doesn’t it remind you of the erotic Japanese ukiyo-e prints? There is much more explicit content that we decided not to publish here, but if you want to give them a closer look – visit Koon’s website.

Jeff Koons & Cicciolina, Ilona on Top – Rosa Background from Made in Heaven, 1990.
Jeff Koons & Cicciolina, Ilona on Top – Rosa Background from Made in Heaven, 1990. Silvia Neri.

The story of their marriage does not have a happy, postmodern ending. Koons expected Cicciolina to stop working in her industry after the marriage, but she didn’t want to. The couple split up and began a strenuous fight for the custody rights of their son. Cicciolina won and moved to Italy with her son, where she continued to work.

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