Art Brokerage: Jeff Koons American Artist: B. 1955. Jeffrey "Jeff" Koons (born January 21, 1955) is an American artist known for his reproductions of banal objects—such as balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces. Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania, to Henry and Gloria Koons. His father was a furniture dealer and interior decorator; his mother was a seamstress. As a child he went door to door after school selling gift-wrapping paper and candy to earn pocket money. As a teenager he revered Salvador Dalí so much that he visited him at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. Koons studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute College of Art. While a visiting student at the Art Institute, Koons met the artist Ed Paschke, who became a major influence and for whom he worked as a studio assistant in the late 1970s. After college, he moved to New York in 1977 and worked at the membership desk of the Museum of Modern Art while establishing himself as an artist. During this time, he dyed his hair red and would often cultivate a pencil mustache, after Dalí. In 1980, he got licensed to sell mutual funds and stocks and began working as a Wall Street commodities broker at First Investors Corporation. After a summer with his parents in Sarasota, Florida (Koons took on a brief job there as a political canvasser), he returned to New York and found a new career as a commodities broker, first at Clayton Brokerage Company and then at Smith Barney. Jeff Koons rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists who explored the meaning of art in a media-saturated era. He gained recognition in the 1980s and subsequently set up a factory-like studio in a SoHo loft on the corner of Houston Street and Broadway in New York. It was staffed with over 30 assistants, each assigned to a different aspect of producing his work—in a similar mode as Andy Warhol's Factory (notable because all of his work is produced using a method known as art fabrication). Today, he has a 1,500 m2 (16,000 sq ft) factory near the old Hudson rail yards in Chelsea, working with 90 to 120 regular assistants. Koons developed a color-by-numbers system, so that each of his assistants could execute his canvases and sculptures as if they had been done "by a single hand". "I think art takes you outside yourself, takes you past yourself. I believe that my journey has really been to remove my own anxiety. That's the key. The more anxiety you can remove, the more free you are to make that gesture, whatever the gesture is. The dialogue is first with the artist, but then it goes outward, and is shared with other people. And if the anxiety is removed everything is so close, everything is available, and it's just this little bit of confidence, or trust, that people have to delve into."
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