A Modern Topiary

 “I love the dialogue with nature in creating a piece that needs so much control—How many plants should be planted? How will these plants survive?—while at the same time giving up the control. It’s in nature’s hands, even though you try to plan everything to make the plants survive. This sense of giving up control is very beautiful. The balance between control and giving up control reminds us of the polarity of existence.” Jeff Koons (1955– )

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

“Split-Rocker,” left profile.

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

“Split-Rocker,” right profile.

From June 25th to September 12th the spot where the world marvels at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be occupied by Jeff Koons’s Split-Rocker. This sight-specific sculpture is making its New York City debut. It coincides with the retrospective of Mr. Koons’s works at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This retrospective showcases 150 objects created by Mr. Koons over the course of his career, stretching back to 1978. The artist’s works sell for millions of dollar; in May of this year, Sotheby’s auctioned off a mirrored sculpture of the cartoon character Popeye for $28.2 million! Mr. Koons’s work is the most expensive of any living artist.

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

A full-frontal view of “Split-Rocker” and gilded Prometheus.

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

Standing in Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens with “Split-Rocker” in the background.

Towering more than 37 feet above Rockefeller Plaza, and covered with over 50,000 flowering plants Split-Rocker is a presentation of the Gagosian Gallery; it was organized by the Public Art Fund and Tishman Speyer, the owner of Rockefeller Center. This whimsical sculpture was first exhibited at the Palais des Papes, at Avignon, France in 2000. Next it was shown at the Château de Versailles in 2008 and at the Fondation Beyeler Museum at Riehen, near Basel, Switzerland in 2012. In addition, Split-Rocker has been a part of the collection of the Glenstone, a private museum in Potomac, Maryland since June of 2013.

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

The flowered grip on “Split-Rocker.”

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

“Split-Rocker” is so cute from its three-quarters angle!

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

Full-frontal view of “Split-Rocker.”

Split-Rocker was created in the spirit of a classic topiary; but its construction uses 21st-century technology. Thousands of live flowering plants—begonias, geraniums, petunias, fuchsias, and more—conceal its frame of steel and an extensive internal irrigation system. All the plants are rooted in soil.

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

Rockefeller Center’s Channel Gardens and “Split-Rocker.”

“Split-Rocker” peeks through the foliage in the Channel Gardens.

“Split-Rocker” peeks through the foliage in the Channel Gardens.

The York, Pennsylvania native was inspired by his son’s toy rocker, a pony (on the left hand side of Split-Rocker) and a dinosaur (on the right hand side); he combined the two heads into a Picasso-like asymmetrical form, with handles sticking out from each side. This is not the first time Mr. Koons has presented an over-sized flowering animal creation in Rockefeller Center. In the summer of 2000, his Puppy, first created in 1992, was presented by the Public Art Fund. I got to see the original Puppy, modeled on a West Highland Terrier, in 2002; it is on permanent display outside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Like Split-Rocker it is such good fun!

Jeff Koons, Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock, Split-Rocker, Whitney Museum of American Art, Topiary

Looming above “Split-Rocker” is 30 Rockefeller Center.

 

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2 responses to “A Modern Topiary

  1. Lots of pictures of this masterpiece. I’d like to see his sketch for the composition of it, namely, the openings for the soil, the schematic for the specific plants, etc. This is probably in the files of the gallery. Koons hit the sweet spot of millionaires’ taste in art as popular entertainment.

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