Koons, with eye for pop, brings Popeye show to UK

Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:11pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Artist Jeff Koons has presented a series of Popeye paintings in London, saying the cartoon hero born of the 1929 Depression was a symbol of self confidence, before adding enigmatically: "May be art is the spinach."

The 54-year-old American, one of the world's most successful artists dubbed the "king of kitsch" for his shiny, balloon-like creations and references to pop culture, is marking the first major survey of his work to be held in a public English gallery.

"Jeff Koons: Popeye Series" opens at the Serpentine Gallery in London on July 2 and runs until September 13.

As well as the Popeye canvases, it features a series of Koons's trademark casts of inflatable toys in the shape of lobsters, walruses, turtles and monkeys.

Some of them appear to be pushing through wire fencing or garden chairs in what some critics see as a symbol of people determined to get through the recession.

"I always see a little bit of my father in Popeye," Koons told reporters at a preview of the show.

"But something that's not so personal is that it's 'I yam what I yam', and it's this self-acceptance.

"And for art to function ... you first have to trust in yourself and when you trust in yourself you can follow your interests and follow them on a profound level."   Continued...

<p>U.S. artist Jeff Koons poses for the media with his work entitled 'Caterpillar Ladder' at the Serpentine Gallery in London June 30, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis</p>