07 September 2010

Made in Heaven

Made in Heaven

In 1991, artist Jeff Koons married the porn star Ilona Staller (also known as Cicciolina), and they posed for a series of sexually explicit photographs. These formed the basis for his notorious Made in Heaven series, which caused an instant scandal when it was first exhibited in New York. Taschen published a Koons monograph in 1992, reproducing almost the entire Made in Heaven series, in both uncensored and self-censored versions. (The latter edition was apparently intended for the Japanese market, where frontal nudity is prohibited, though copies were also sold in the UK.)

Koons refers to the Made in Heaven works as paintings, which implies that they’re hand-painted. In fact, they are photographic enlargements printed onto canvas. Regardless, nine of the images will be shown next month at the Luxembourg + Co. gallery in New York. Works from the series were also included in the recent Seduced and Pop Life exhibitions in London.

Made in Heaven was almost unprecedented in its pornographic imagery. Perhaps the only equivalent was a remarkable series of four self-portraits by Man Ray, photographed in 1929. Like Koons, Man Ray photographed himself with his muse (Alice Prin, also known as Kiki de Montparnasse), creating hardcore images that leave nothing to the imagination. They were included in 1929, a slim volume of poetry by Benjamin Péret and Louis Aragon, published surreptitiously in Belgium and seized by French customs officials. The photographs—Printemps (‘spring’), Eté (‘summer’), Automne (‘autumn’), and Hiver (‘winter’)—are very rarely reproduced, though they were included in the Barbican’s Seduced exhibition.

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