PARIS (AP) — Paris' Pompidou Center inaugurated a major retrospective Tuesday of U.S. artist Jeff Koons, the polemical 59-year-old master of kitsch, whose huge, stainless-steel balloon dog broke records last year, selling at auction for $58.4 million.
The exhibit features the porcelain statue of Michael Jackson with his pet monkey, Bubbles, as well as the simplistic inflatable mirrored rabbit that first made Koons' name in the '70s and a lewd image with his ex-wife, porn star La Cicciolina.
The show spans 35 years and shows why Koons, America's highest-selling living artist, is also one of its most controversial. Parts of the exhibit are forbidden to minors.
"Koons' work, whether we accept it or not, is undoubtedly unique in provoking so much thought and debate," said the curator of the retrospective, Bernard Blistene.
It comes just months after his retrospective opened at New York's Whitney Museum for a run that saw two separate attacks on the exhibit by vandals. When Koons was in France in 2008, an installation of 17 sculptures in the Versailles Palace sparked sharp criticism from conservatives for despoiling the iconic site.
The retrospective's arrival in France is, for Koons, more than a moment of personal pride.
"I owe so much to France from the beginning of my career, from studying French artists, from Manet all the way up to Marcel Duchamps. So to finally get here and see it all being put together at the Pompidou makes me proud," Koons told The Associated Press.
References to France-based artists pepper the show's over 100 works, from the "Inflatables," his first series, which is thought to be inspired by Duchamps' groundbreaking "readymade" objects, to his 2003 hanging lobster, an image closely associated with Salvador Dali.
The retrospective runs until April 27.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
(Corrects to show this was not the first European retrospective but the first French retrospective and corrects to show it did not have 200 artworks but 100 pieces.)