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New Shelton Wet/Dry Triple Decker

Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

New Shelton Wet/Dry Triple Decker

Artist: Jeff Koons (American, born 1955)
Date: 1981
Medium: Three Shelton wet/drys, plexiglass, and fluorescent lights
Overall: 124 1/2 x 28 x 28 in. (316.2 x 71.1 x 71.1 cm.)
Credit Line: Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Purchased with funds from Roy Halston Frowick by exchange, 1991.46
Accession number: 1991.46
Classification: sculpture
Label TextKoons’ work explores universal themes such as the cycle of life and death, as well as issues specific to contemporary American society. Consumer culture, which prizes packaging over content, and the incorporation of manufactured items into works of art were integral parts of Koons’ vision – to direct something “new” at a potential consumer. This work is from a series of thirty-five works made with vacuums called “The New”. By placing the vacuums on hermetically-sealed display, Koons attempted to preserve their freshness, using lighting to further glorify them as eternally desirable commodities. This work became a quintessential artwork of the 1980s, a decade known for its rampant consumerism. Koons referred to the vacuums as “breathing machines,” as air and liquid pass through them, and suggested this work has a family relationship of “papa, mama, and baby”. A continuation of the life cycle metaphor, the encasing of the vacuums attempts to preserve their newness, but ultimately fails. The container references a womb or incubator, but by contrast may also suggest a sealed tomb. The lights assist this paradox. While they are on, the sculpture is “alive”; when the plug is pulled, it “dies”.
Exhibition History"Jeff Koons," San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, Dec. 10, 1992 - Feb. 7, 1993, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, July 18 - Oct. 3, 1993
Published ReferencesDon Bishoff, "At This Price, It's Stunning," THE REGISTER-GUARD, Eugene, Oregon, Jan. 27, 1992, b/w ill.

Alice Thorson, "It's Art: If the Artist Says So", Kansas City Star, Sunday, July 7, 2002, p. J-1, J-3

Elaine Marie Alphin, VACUUM CLEANERS, from the "Household History" series, Carolrhoda Books, Inc., Minneapolis, 1997, credit p.4, color ill. p.40

Bill Wundram, "The Growing Farce of Today's Modern Art," QUAD CITIES TIMES, Davenport, IA, Feb. 1992, b/w ill.

Thomas H. Thompson, "Upside of Electronics and the Arts: A Response to Wallace Chappell," DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER, Opinion page, Jan. 5, 1992, b/w ill.

AN UNCOMMON VISION: THE DES MOINES ART CENTER, Des Moines Art Center, 1998, ref. p.160, color ill. pp.160 & 161

DMAC News, Nov./Dec. 1993, p.3

Eliot Nusbaum, "Jeff Koons' Sculpture: Art As An Idea," DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER, Jan. 5, 1992, color ill.
entirely unexpected