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A Study of Artist Jeff Koons and Martin Sharp's Appropriation Technique

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Many post-modern artists have incorporated works of other artists for use in their own creations. However, this is not considered as “stealing” that artist’s artwork by using it themselves in their own artwork, but is considered “appropriation”. An artist who wishes to appropriate ones works does not just cut and paste the other artists work and claims it as his own, they show it in a new light by giving it new meaning away from the original work of art, and by doing this are challenging ideas about art and what art is. Two such artists that use this technique are Martin Sharp and Jeff Koons.

The majority of Martin Sharp’s work is pop art; he appropriates images that are familiar to the art world or popular culture of the time. One of Sharp’s strongest inspirations was Van Gogh and in some cases has appropriated Gogh’s masterpieces into his own artworks. One of these artworks is “Still Life” which was made in 1973.

Martin Sharp has efficiently appropriated Van Gough’s “Sunflowers” and Andy Warhol’s “Marylyn” in his artwork “Still Life”. It is easy to recognize Van Gough’s “Sunflowers” through the style of the brush stokes and colour use which is easily associated with most of Gough’s artworks. As well as this Andy Warhol’s “Marylyn” has been used, as Marylyn Monroe is a huge celebrity icon in which was strongly relatable at that time and still even today. It is an effective artwork in expressing beauty and showing that it is ever lasting, and Sharp has used the “Sunflowers” and “Marylyn” as symbols of this beauty.

Even though Marylyn Monroe is not alive today her beauty still lives on. Marylyn was adored by many and seen as the goddess of sex appeal and it is understandable why she is used to display beauty in this artwork. The two artworks that have both been appropriate look quite odd placed together, as the older style of Van Gouge’s is contrasted with Warhol’s pop art style. They also both vary in texture, with the small rapid paint stokes of the vase and flowers to the single flat colours of Marylyn’s face. The use of colour is appealing with its contrasts of yellow and blue, and the dominance of Marylyn’s face is overwhelming.

Jeff Koons is another artist who uses appropriation to communicate ideas and challenges art. His artworks and himself are often criticizes and common question is, is his art really art? Some of his earlier artworks were especially criticized, that being his ‘ready-mades’. In one case he just stuck a vacuum cleaner in a glass cabinet and said that was an artwork. Many people disagreed with him thinking this was not art but simply an every day household object, however art is supposed challenge the audience and make us think, and that is exactly what the vacuum cleaner does, as it makes us question what art is. This was very similar to Marcel Duchamp’s artwork “Fountain” in 1917 who simply placed a urinal upside down.

In his later works he appropriated kitsch objects and transformed them into something that looked much more special. An example of this was his artwork “Rabbit” which was made is 1986. The original was simply a soft toy bunny rabbit, but this was transformed by Koons into a chrome sculpture. The extremely fine detail and the shiny metallic look of “Rabbit” stops us and make us appreciate the every day object. This is what Koons tries to accomplish with many of his artworks.

One of most well known artworks created by Koon’s is “Puppy” in 1992. According to Koons the puppy is a symbol of love, warmth and happiness. It stands approximately 13 metres tall and consists of an inner structure of stainless steel framework and an outer layer of shrub and flower carefully sculpted in the shape of a dog. Again the artwork like many of Koon’s is simply an appropriation of an already existing object and when seen in such a large scale with outstanding beauty we seem to appreciated these everyday objects that we are all familiar with, and it isn’t until it is put right in front of our eyes in such a magnificent manner that we notice this.

Koons is very different from many artists, in the fact that he does not actually do a lot of the hands on work when creating his artworks, but rather employs someone to create it for him. This is another aspect of Koons that is often criticized in that he not only challenges what art is, but also what makes an artist an artist. He may not physically create them himself but he still comes up with the ideas and meanings behind his creations. There are many building constructions around the world that are considered as works of art, but who is considered the artist behind them? An architect thinks of the ideas and how the building will be constructed, but does not necessarily do any of the physical creation of the building. So how does this differ from what Jeff Koons is doing?

Both Martin Sharp and Jeff Koons use appropriation that we can all relate to and recognize, to communicate their ideas to the audience, whether it be that beauty is ever lasting, or seeing the magnificence of every day common objects. They also both challenge the audience into thinking about what art is, especially Koons as he does not actually do any of the hands on work, and therefore are both challenging ideas about art.

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A Study of Artist Jeff Koons and Martin Sharp’s Appropriation Technique. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
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