"Great artists are always complex and complicated figures. Unlike philosophers, they are also able to simplify matters, enabling understanding at a single glance by which all is revealed. Ut pictura poesis – ‘as is painting so is poetry’: an insight conjured by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Mirrors from the very beginning have played an essential role in almost all of Jeff Koons’s work. They appear in the first inflatables of 1979, in which glass flowers and other ‘trite’ objects picked up in discount stores on 14th Street in New York were placed on mirrored platforms and backdrops. Since, many of his most ambitious works, such as the Balloon Swan, Balloon Monkey and Balloon Rabbit, shown spectacularly in New York in 2013, are finished with such shine that the viewer cannot but be aware of themselves many, many times as they circle the sculptures.
Koons goes further than Duchamp, who so famously described the viewer as the essential completer of the work of art, by literally embedding the viewer in his works of art, and as a result plays with their memories of childhood and, more recently, educated cultural experiences as they remember classical sculpture or the history of European painting dating from the Renaissance down to Picasso. Now for the first time he gives a nod and a wink to the originator of conceptualism, whose name is synonymous with art that makes pure and abstracted thought visible. At least that might be one way of describing the inventor of The Large Glass (1915-23). This all leads seamlessly into the concept of the blue glass gazing ball that Koons has now given, as though almost a gift, to some of the most decisive, at least as he regards them via museum encounters, masterpieces of Western European painting.