December | 0 COMMENTS

 Damien Hirst was just a second year student at Goldsmiths when he recalls being “blown away” by the early work of Jeff Koons, which was having its UK debut in a 1987 show of New York Art Now at the original Saatchi Gallery in Swiss Cottage. Wind the clock forward more than three decades, and the multimillionaire Hirst is now a major Koons collector with his own extensive quasi-institutional private space – itself profoundly inspired by the Boundary Road Saatchi Gallery. Next week Hirst’s Newport Street gallery unveils its second exhibition, a major survey show devoted to the oeuvre of this all-American post-Popster, who in the intervening years has also become an enormously wealthy major art world name and a good friend of his younger British admirer.

Jeff Koons: Now at Newport Street Gallery is – astonishingly – the most extensive exhibition of the artist’s work in this country to date. Consisting of 36 sculptures and paintings, it includes a very early – and genuinely plastic – inflatable flower piece of 1979 and the early fluorescent-lit vacuum cleaners, floating baseballs and stainless steel train-shaped bourbon decanters that so affected the 22-year-old Hirst. It then extends through most of the major series of Koons’ career, including his monumental five-metre high stainless steel Balloon Monkey (Blue) of 2013 and culminates in the astonishing 2014 Play-Doh, a trompe l’oeil three-metre high mountain of lurid kiddie modelling mush, rendered in polychrome aluminium. This piece took Koons and his fabrication team 10 years to develop to a verisimilitude so convincing that you now feel you can almost smell the stuff.