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The Way Jeff Koons' Puppy Artwork Reflects Chinese Culture

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Throughout the centuries, animals have appeared in works of art. Cultural beliefs are the main principles and values upon which an entire community exists. This is made up of several parts: traditions, which rituals; values, which are philosophies; and culture, which is all of a group’s guiding values. While the dragon in the Chinese culture signifies power, boldness, and excellence. Dances are for the lucky animals and are performed through festival occasions as it means to chase away evil spirits and welcome in prosperous times. Jeff Koons created a Puppy in 1992, which was based on a small wooden sculpture of a terrier.

Each animal has its unique features and qualities. Chinese guardian lions, also commonly known in China as ‘stone lions’ and also called as ‘foo dog’ in the west of China. This is kept at the entrance of an essential building so that it guards the grounds of the people within. The original one which was made by Jeff Koons puppy is 52cm tall while a newer version is at 12.4 metres tall supporting 55,000 kgs of soil and 60,000 flowering plants. The Chinese Ming-era–Guardian lion was made of stone which was sculpted to become in a lion’s shape. Over 100’s of stonemasons was building this sculpture; the lion stands on a base of rock carved in shape so that the lion fits correctly on the base which would make it rigid and strong. The guardian lions are made into a spiritual way, but Jeff Koons puppy is made for giving happiness and love. Both artworks are made in 3D. These artworks are not only of interest historically and as a unique aspect of Chinese culture, but also masterpieces of art in themselves, each of them is a variation on the theme unique to the stonemasons who chiselled it from the rock. Jeff Koons style is Contemporary Art.

Artists are often influenced by, and sometimes limited by, cultural be and practices. The lion in the Chinese culture symbolizes as strength, superiority and stability. While the dragon in the Chinese culture signifies power, boldness, and excellence. While the Puppy was created as a symbol of love, warmth and happiness, it was strongly embedded in Koons’ language. Jeff Koons created the masterpiece to inspire optimism and to instil, in his own words, “confidence and security.” The Chinese Ming Era-Guardian of lions, the thought which originated and became trendy in Chinese Buddhism, features a pair of extremely stylized lions. With increased trade during the Han dynasty and cultural relations through the road, lions were introduced into China from the olden states of Central Asia.

Animals are sometimes used to symbolise ideas and concepts that are important to particular cultures. In China Guardian lions, also known as komainu, shishi, or foo dogs, are intimidating, mythological, lion-like animals seen throughout a breath of art forms, varying from design to displays. As they symbolise prosperity, success, and protection, they’re full meaning—which has made them admired in Western art too. The Chinese Ming-era-Guardian of Lions was made for the beliefs for people and to show them that have boldness and be brave. Chinese lions are meant to reflect the feeling of the animal as different from the reality of the lion. When people see Jeff Koons masterpiece it gives them happiness and makes them joyful. It gives them a determination in themselves to be happy in life and never give up.

The Chinese Ming-era-Guardian of Lions, In Chinese Philosophy, the lion symbolizes strength, stability and superiority, whereas the dragon signifies power, boldness and excellence. But on the other hand, is Jeff Koons masterpiece ‘puppy’ which symbolizes love, warmth, and happiness. The Chinese Ming-era-Guardian of Lions is more spiritual and cultural. Jeff Koons Puppy is located on the grounds of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, and thus available for viewing at times open by the Museum’s hours of operation.   

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