Vacuous, disposable and deathless. Exuberant, celebratory and perfect. There is little that has not been said about Jeff Koons’s seminal 1986 sculpture which is set to be auctioned at Christie’s
In the 33 years since it was created, Jeff Koons’s Rabbit has become one of the most iconic works of 20th-century art. Standing at just over 3ft high, this stainless-steel sculpture is at once cute and imposing, melding a Minimalist sheen with a cartoonish sense of play. It is crisp and cool in its appearance, yet taps into the visual language of childhood; its lack of facial features renders it inscrutable, yet its form evokes fun and frivolity.
Few works of art of its generation can have the same instant recognisability: it has been on the cover of books, exhibition catalogues and magazines. A monumental blow-up version even featured in the 2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is almost impossible to underestimate the impact that Rabbit has on its viewers and the impact it has made more widely. Some have labelled it a lazy joke, a visual con that was not what it seemed. Others have embraced its sharp wit. But Rabbit’s many inherent contradictions at once light and heavy, hard and soft are also its greatest power. It was a thumb in the eye of the art world, while at the same time embracing its attitude and aesthetics.
When it was first shown at Ileana Sonnabend’s gallery in New York in 1986, the art critic of The New York Times, Roberta Smith, described this ‘oversize rabbit, with carrot, once made of inflatable plastic. In stainless steel, it provides a dazzling update on Brancusi's perfect forms, even as it turns the hare into a space-invader of unknown origin.’
The great museum director Kirk Varnedoe would describe it as a milestone, recalling that he was ‘dumbstruck’ when he first saw it at the Sonnabend exhibition. In 2000, Varnedoe curated Open Ends at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, juxtaposing Rabbit with Brancusi’s works.
Standing 3 and a half foot high, Rabbit is one of the 11 works being sold off from the collection of S.I Newhouse at Christie’s, the former owner of publishing house Conde Nast. The auction takes place on 15 May in New York, Rabbit will be offered for sale in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, with an estimate of $50-70 million..