Jeff Koons. Shine, the exhibition in Florence


Jeff Koons. Shine, the major exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence opens its doors.

From October 2nd, the Palazzo Strozzi of Florence will host a major exhibition about the famous contemporary American artist: Jeff Koons. Known as a controversial but revolutionary figure, this exhibition focuses on the concept of “shine” in the artist’s universe.

Shine. This concept is apparently well-known and everybody is capable of giving a definition: to glow, to illuminate, to radiate, something that reflect the light. But the work of Jeff Koons goes far beyond that simple definition. In this exhibition, the meaning of shine is ambiguous and it doesn’t only refer to the decorative and aesthetic aspect of the artist’s works. The philosophical meaning of shine is the key of this artistic journey, that is the concept of appearance, the difference between being and seeming.


Cortile ©photo: Ela Bialkowska_OKNOstudio

Shine questions the reality and engages the senses of the spectator who will experience a lot of different emotions in front of those works, from joy to admiration and also a feeling of connection due to the familiarity with some sculptures and paintings. That is actually how the creator manages to create a complex relationship with the reality which is constantly reassessed.

Inspired by artists like Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp, Koons entered in the collective imagination thanks to his capacity of mixing the popular culture to academic art, using references from both worlds of art history and the modern consumer society. That connectivity between the artworks and the spectator creates a mirror, both literally with his work Donkey and figuratively, in which visitors can recognize themselves and their environment. That is actually where the introspection begins.

In fact, if the ambiguous concept of Shine is the center of the exhibition, it can’t exist without the visitors who are unconsciously the main protagonists. Shine also questions our relationship to the very concept of art and so put the spectators at the heart of the exhibit.

“I think that when you leave the room, the art leaves the room. Art is about your own possibilities as a human being. It’s about your own excitement, your own potential and what you can become. It affirms your existence.”

the artist said.

The purpose of this spectacular exhibit is also about self-acceptance. According to Koons himself, self-acceptance is essential to every human being as it is the key to understand and accept the others and creating a harmonious society.

Sala 3c ©photo: Ela Bialkowska_OKNOstudio

Shine is composed of a selection of the most famous works of Jeff Koons, all loaned by some of the world’s most important museums and collections. The artworks selected reflect the concept of Shine to perfection and that from the very beginning of the exhibition. In the Palazzo Strozzi’s courtyard stands one of the most spectacular and important statue made by Koons. His Balloon Monkey (Blue) of six meters long and weighing around five tonnes welcomes the visitors and sets the tone of the exhibition. This artwork and the Balloon Dog (Red), also in the Palazzo Strozzi, represent the will of the artist to remember happy moments of childhood through a common object.

The balloon art is particularly appreciated by the artist who uses it in another series called Antiquity.

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red). Collezione privata, Courtesy di David Zwirner. © Jeff Koons

In that series, the most interesting works are probably the reproduction of several Venus statues from the Antiquity into balloon statues. Two of them are displayed in Florence: the Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice (Violet) and the Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red). Koons managed to keep the typical exaggerated feminine shapes of Venus’s bodies as represented by the ancient sculptures in two very different balloon statues.

Sala 5 Hulk © Jeff Koons, Photo: Ela Bialkowska_OKNOstudio

For the American artist, every details matter and nothing is left to chance, especially the choice of the materials used to create his works. Among his favorite materials, the stainless steel holds a special place. He started to use stainless steel in 1986 for his series Luxury and Degradation which some of the works are exposed at Palazzo Strozzi. According to Koons, stainless steel is “the material of the proletarian” used for objects of the daily life. That’s why using it in his creations has a special meaning. In the series Luxury and Degradation, Koons represents luxurious objects, like the Baccarat Crystal set,currently in the Palazzo Strozzi. Made of stainless steel, the set is perfectly shiny, as a luxurious object should be, but the use of such an industrial material reflects the artist’s idea that appearances can be disappointing. 

Jeff Koons, Rabbit 1986. Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, partial gift of Stefan T. Edlis and H. Gael Neeson. © Jeff Koons

Stainless steel is the material used for the most iconic works of Koons and, in particular, for the famous Rabbit, the sculpture from the series Statuary made in 1986 and sold for 91 million dollars in 2019. This major work is displayed in Florence as well.

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Apollo Lykeios) 2013. Collezione dell’artista. © Jeff Koons. Photo: Tom Powel Imaging

The revolutionary figure of Jeff Koons is embodied by his Gazing Ball series and precisely in the sculptures and paintings series. From 2013 to 2021 the artist made a selection of fifty masterpieces of the Western art, paintings and sculptures, and reproduced them with his own vision, adding to each of them a blue glass ball. In Florence the visitors will have the pleasure to contemplate two statues of that series: Apollo Lykeios and Diana. Those sculptures of the two mythological figures look exactly like the originals except for the blue glass ball on Diana’s’ shoulder and on Apollo’s lyre.

Three paintings of that series are also on display in this exhibition. One of them is the Koon’s version of Tiger Hunt, originally paintedby Paul Rubens in the 17th century. The artist placed the blue ball in the center of the painting.


Those artworks represent at best the creator’s idea of an artistic dialogue and connection with the spectator who can see his own reflection on the blue spheres,  literally making him a part of the work. Besides, these series show how the classical art inspired the artist and show that the association of classical and contemporary art is possible and above all, with great taste.

The exhibition Shine is undoubtedly a major event which offers a very special journey through art, history, philosophy and psychology as well. Even if the exhibit focuses on the concept of shine, it also opens the doors to the entire universe of Jeff Koons and reveals the complexity and the extent of his artistic vision. Shine will be open to visitors until the 30th of January 2022.

Jeff Koons. Shine
Until 30 January, 2022

Palazzo Strozzi
Piazza degli Strozzi

Opening Hours
Everyday 10am-8pm
Thursdays until 11pm

Entry fee


+39 055 2645155

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