JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
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JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
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JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)

Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Train

JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Train
stainless steel and bourbon
11 x 114 x 6 1/2 in. (27.9 x 289.6 x 16.5 cm.)
Executed in 1986. This work is number three from an edition of three plus one artist's proof and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1992
J. Saltz, R. Smith and P. Halley, Beyond Boundaries: New York's New Art, New York, 1986, p. 6 (another example illustrated).
J. Siegel, 'Jeff Koons: Unachievable States of Being,' Art, October 1986, p. 67 (another example illustrated).
E. Heartney, "The Hot New Cool Art: Simulationism," ARTnews 86, no. 1, January 1987, p. 135
D. Cameron, L’Art i el seu doble: Panoram de l’art a Nova York / Art and Its Double: a New York Perspective, Barcelona, 1987, p. 71 (another example illustrated).
S. Morgan, "Write when you get home..." Artscribe International (UK), September 1987, p. 59 (another example from the edition illustrated).
Carnegie International - 1988, exh. cat., Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, 1988, p. 90.
J. Koons and R. Rosenblum, The Jeff Koons Handbook, London, 1992, pp. 66-67 and 157 (another example illustrated).
T. W. Luke, Shows of Force: Power, Politics, and Ideology in Art Exhibitions, Durham, 1992, p. 218.
A. Muthesius, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, pp. 21, 68-69 and 70, pl. 1 (installation view of another example illustrated).
Jeff Koons: Easyfun-Ethereal, exh. cat., Berlin, Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, 2000, pp. 34, fig. 15 (another example illustrated).
Jeff Koons: Pictures 1980-2002, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 2002, p. 21, pl. IV (installation view of another example illustrated).
“Notable Prices, the Year in Review 2004,” The Art Newspaper, 2004, pp. 36-37 (another example illustrated).
G. McNatt, “Pop with No Apologies,” The Baltimore Sun, 9 April 2005.
S. Cosulich Canarutto, Jeff Koons, Milan, 2006, pp. 44-45 (illustrated).
A. Lindemann, Collecting Contemporary, Los Angeles, 2006, pp. 150-151 (another example from the edition illustrated).
H. Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, New York, 2008, pp. 87, 188-189, 193, 195-198 and 206 (another example illustrated).
L. Molzhahn, “Jeff Koons Exhibition Opens at Museum of Contemporary Art,” Chicago Tribune, 30 May 2008.
P. Schjeldahl, “Funhouse: A Jeff Koons Retrospective,” The New Yorker, 9 and 16 June 2008.
M. Nakamura, “USA: Jeff Koons,” Art Actuel, no. 57, July/August 2008, p. 75 (another example illustrated).
40 Years Kaldor Public Art Projects, exh. cat., Sydney, Kaldor Art Projects, 2009, p. 166.
Jeff Koons: Popeye Sculpture, exh. cat, Paris, Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, 2010, p. 9 (installation view illustrated).
Jeff Koons: Fondation Beyeler, exh. cat., Basel, Foundation Beyeler, 2012, p. 19 (another example illustrated).
N. Rosenthal, Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculpture, exh. cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, p. 5.
“Private View: Just the Ticket,” Vanity Fair (On Art), November 2014, p. 36.
M. Polsinelli and S. Burkhanova, “The Words,” Garage Magazine, Fall/Winter 2014, pp. 90-91.
A. Malvoisin, “Top 4 des œuvres les plus chères," Beaux Arts éditions, December 2014, pp. 64-65 (another example illustrated).
J. Koons and N. Rosenthal, Jeff Koons: Conversations with Norman Rosenthal, New York, 2014, pp. 126-127 (another example illustrated).
H. Holzwarth, Koons, Cologne, 2015, p. 34 (installation view of another example illustrated).
J. Helyer, E. Shad and C. Beck, eds., The Broad Collection, Los Angeles, 2015, pp. 12-13 and 21 (another example illustrated).
Jeff Koons: Now, exh. cat., London, Newport Street Gallery, 2016, pp. 4, 8.
The Broad Foundations Entrepreneurship for the Public Good 2015-2016, Los Angeles, The Broad Art Foundations, 2016, p. 97 (installation view of another example illustrated).
J. Drobnick, "Bottles of Art," Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, Berkeley, Winter 2018, p. 50 (another example illustrated).
M. Gioni and N. Bell, Jeff Koons: 2000 Words, Athens, 2019, pp. 54-57 and 122 (illustrated).
A. Perl, "A more public arena: Jeff Koons’ Reinvention in the Midst of Reaganism," Association for Art History, June 2020 (installation view of another example illustrated).
R. Kushner, The Hard Crowd, London, 2021, p. 72.
B.B. Bonomi, "Jeff Koons in Qatar: The American Artist’s Lost in America Exhibition Is One Not To Be Missed," Harper's Bazaar Arabia, March 2022 (installation view of another example illustrated).
Los Angeles, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Luxury and Degradation, August 1986 (another example exhibited).
New York, International With Monument Gallery, Luxury and Degradation, October 1986 (another example exhibited).
Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Fundació Caixa de Pensions, Art and its Double: A New York perspective/L'art i el seu doble: Panorama de l'art a Nova York, November 1986-January 1987, p. 71, no. 46 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons: Works 1979-1988, July-August 1988, pp. 30-31 and 39, no. 19 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Saatchi Gallery, New York Art Now: The Saatchi Collection, September 1987-January 1988, pp. 136-137 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Washington D.C, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Culture and Commentary: An Eighties Perspective, February-May 1990, p. 79 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago and Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, October 1990-September 1991, p. 395, no. 32 (illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jeff Koons, December 1992-October 1993, pp. 70-71 and 131, pl. 24, no. 28 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Denmark, Aarhus Kunstmuseum and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Jeff Koons Retrospektiv, November 1992-April 1993, Amsterdam and Stuttgart, pp. 52-53 (illustrated); Aarhus, pp. 42-43, cat. no. 13 (illustrated).
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau; London, Royal Academy of Arts and London, Saatchi Gallery, American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913-1993, May-December 1993, p. 435, no. 250 (illustrated).
Kunsthalle Zürich, Playpen & Corpus Delirium, October-December 1996, pp. 16-17 and 20 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Santa Monica, Eli Broad Family Foundation, Group Show, December 1997-July 1999 (another example exhibited).
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Age of Influence: Reflections in the Mirror of American Culture, April-June 2000 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts and Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons: Four Decades of Art from the Broad Collection, October 2001-September 2003, p. 224 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Jeff Koons, June-September 2003, pp. 44-45 and 51 (illustrated).
New York, C&M Arts, Jeff Koons: Highlights of 25 Years, April-June 2004, pp. 50-51 and 81, no. 15 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and Helsinki City Art Museum, Jeff Koons: Retrospective, September 2004-April 2005, pp. 44-45, 110-111 and 146 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and London, Hayward Gallery, Universal Experience: Art, Life and the Tourist's Eye, February-December 2005 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Kunsthaus Bregenz, Re-Object: Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Merz, February-May 2007, pp. 110-111 and 120-121 (illustrated).
London, Gagosian Gallery, Pop Art Is, September-November 2007, n.p., no. 101 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeff Koons, May-September 2008, pp. 48-49 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, Inaugural Installation, February-September 2008, pp. 199 and 243 ­­­(another example exhibited and installation view illustrated).
Chateau de Versailles, Jeff Koons, Versailles, October 2008-April 2009, pp. 81-83, 156 and 166 (illustrated).
Frankfurt, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Jeff Koons: The Sculptor, June-September 2012, p. 172 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou and Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, June 2014-September 2015, pp. 82 and 86-87 (New York, another example exhibited and illustrated), pp. 90 and 94-95 (Paris, illustrated).
Mexico City, Museo Jumex, Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even, May-September 2019, pp. 230-233 (illustrated).
Florence, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Jeff Koons: Shine, October 2021-January 2022, p. 74-77 (illustrated).
Doha, Qatar Museums Al Riwaq Gallery, Jeff Koons: Lost in America, November 2021-March 2022, pp. 58-59 (another example exhibited).
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Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale


Known for his iconic large-scale sculptures which combine dazzling craftsmanship with conceptual rigor, Jeff Koons is one of the most widely-celebrated artists of the current era. His works pull from the archive of popular culture in order to turn an eye toward such critical topics as consumerism, advertising, and the inherent social structures of capitalist society. As conceptually complex as it is aesthetically striking, Jim Beam - J. B. Turner Train marks one of the artist’s first forays into highly polished steel as a medium. First realized in 1986, it was a core component of his seminal 1986 Luxury and Degradation exhibition which helped to cement his recognition around the world. Through this work Koons draws our attention to the dangers of wealth signaling and the ways in which art and imagery have been used to create a subtle but powerful divide within the cultural consciousness. As he explained, "I wanted to suggest how the idea of luxury, through abstraction, is used to induce a psychological state of degradation, the public is constantly undergoing a re-education, being set up for the big kill" (J. Koons, quoted in T. Kellein (ed.), Jeff Koons Pictures: 1980-2002, exh. cat., Bielefeld, 2002, p. 45). Viewing advertisements full of expensive goods that manufacturers tout as luxury items, the general population yearns to be on a level worthy of buying them and financially sound enough to afford them. However, this constant need to possess things out of reach erodes the self-worth and self-image of the consumer. This in turn creates an even deeper need to own and purchase branded or expensive items for the sheer fact that they have a logo or a large price tag. This is a fact that Koons leverages with his sumptuous mirrored works by delivering the glitz and glamour wrapped around an abstraction of reality.

Intricately detailed and visually stunning, Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Train is a masterful of Koon’s fastidious technique. Cast in steel, the gleaming steam engine pulls six cars behind it on a purpose-made track that extends beyond the train on either side. The polished chimney on the front of the locomotive extends upward in utilitarian grandeur, and each bit of ornament and mechanical embellishment is recreated in exacting detail. The ground itself is stylized and takes after the cast elements of the miniature source rather than any real rocky terrain. Looking for all intents and purposes like a scale model of a functioning vehicle, the attention to detail in Koons’s artifice does not stop at surface level.

Like the impetus for its creation, the artist’s train is also a vessel for storing liquor. Within the body of the vehicle, bourbon sourced from the Jim Beam distillery lies in wait in a dark amber pool, sealed with an excise label. Koons has worked with liquids before, notably in his One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series), 1985, but the present example is less of a scientific investigation and more about authenticity coupled with a conversation about the advertising industry in relation to class connections with alcohol. Certain brands and bottles are purposefully created, labeled, and marketed to specific groups of people in a convoluted process of asking what the consumers want while also telling them what they should buy. By pouring American whiskey into a symbol of the adventurous frontier days of the early United States, Jim Beam appeals to nostalgia, history, and a sense of place. Koons highlights this aspect by enlarging the container and creating a perfect object more reminiscent of late-nineteenth-century emblems of opulence than a novelty promotional device.

The use of polished stainless steel brings about multiple allusions to both industry and attraction, two themes that show up in Koons’s oeuvre time and time again. On the one hand, steel is an efficient, strong material that can be used to make long-lasting objects, instruments, and appliances. On the other hand, when buffed to a high degree of silvery sheen, the resulting luster is so enticing one cannot help but stare at their own reflection. These narcissistic tendencies are coupled with temptation and vice in the present example as the mirror of metal stands between the viewer and a sea of bourbon whiskey. Seeing ourselves warp and twist over the surface of the train creates a direct connection between the viewer and the work that is hard to escape. "I often use reflective surfaces in my work, starting to work with polished steel in 1986," Koons noted. "Polishing the metal lent it a desirous surface, but also one that gave affirmation to the viewer. And this is also the sexual part—it’s about affirming the viewer, telling him, 'You exist!' When you move, it moves. The reflection changes. If you don't move, nothing happens. Everything depends on you, the viewer" (J. Koons, quoted in I. Graw, "There Is No Art in It: Isabelle Graw in Conversation with Jeff Koons," pp. 75-83, M. Ulrich (ed.), Jeff Koons: The Painter, exh. cat., Frankfurt, 2012, p. 78). This self-affirmation and self-realization is at the heart of Koons’s practice as he holds a (sometimes literal) mirror up to society and the trappings of Western late-stage capitalism. We see ourselves in the objects of our desire, and sometimes we end up looking past the material item and into our own psyches.

It is a very seductive shiny material and the viewer looks at this and feels for the moment economically secure," Koons stated. "It's most like the gold- and silver-leafing in church during the Baroque and the Rococo." - Jeff Koons, quoted in A. Muthesius, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 1992, p. 22).
The locomotive plays a large part in the mythology of the American West and the romanticized visions of gunslingers, train robberies, and puffs of steam and smoke billowing across the vast plains of the American West. Furthermore, bourbon and steel factor into this conversation as foils that swing from temptation and cowboy saloons in the former to industrial progress in the latter. When Jim Beam chose to make their decanter, they selected an actual train with roots in this narrative. Built just after the American Civil War, the ‘John B. Turner’ was one of those powerful engines that cut its way through the open spaces of the fledgling rail system in the early United States. Named for one of the presidents of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad Company, it was christened in Chicago in 1867 and has been commemorated in multiple forms. Playing into a prevalent nostalgia for seemingly simpler times, Jim Beam called upon this historical icon to market whiskey with the air of old America. In the early twentieth-century, when industry and progress were continuously changing the social and physical landscape of the country, many people became wistful for earlier days. Seeing the days gone by through rose-colored glasses, artists and companies alike set up a romanticized version of the past and created works that seemed familiar and comforting to a population caught up in the speedy evolution of daily life. Koons combines this false nostalgia with false luxury as he uses the sentimental imagery but crafts it in a sparkling metal container that is at times like a holy medieval reliquary and at others like an extravagant shipping container. The conflation of utility and luxury offers a startling dichotomy that invites further examination of the interior process and Koons’s overall conceptual strategy.

Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Train is an illustration of American class structure and the swift industrialization that created the country. The idea came from a novelty object produced by the Jim Beam company to sell whiskey. Originally a liquor decanter crafted from porcelain and plastic, Koons happened upon the impetus for the current example as he was walking down New York’s Fifth Avenue. Seeing the model steam locomotive with trailing cars, he was inspired to recreate it in steel. However, although the finished work is nearly nine feet in length, the original use is not lost. Once the artist fabricated his version, he contacted Jim Beam and had the company fill his oversized vessel with bourbon and issue tax stamps for the alcohol, just as they would have with the commercial items.

The inclusion of the bourbon is important to a full reading of the work, and represents the construction and conflict inherent in socio-economic differences within American life. “All the things that destabilize. That's the story of Luxury and Degradation," he said. "I think there is some truth in it. I paralleled the alcoholic, the desire for alcohol, and the dependence on alcohol as an underlying debasement and degradation" (J. Koons, quoted in Kellein (ed.), op. cit., 2002, p. 21).

In its original exhibition, Jim Beam - J.B. Turner Train and its compatriots were accompanied by lavish reproductions of advertisements for alcohol which Koons appropriated from a variety of sources. In sequence, these ads show the ways in which marketing teams target different demographics in order to sell the most product. Like the train decanter, Koons sourced these images from the real world, pulling from different neighborhoods around New York. Noting the differences in style that depended upon the advertisement’s origin, he sets up a striking conversation about the effects of marketing on the population as it both appeals to and shapes the viewer.

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