Bread City Basketball

Jeff Koons’ Basketball Poster Switch-Up

The Costacos Brothers’ awesome 1980s sports posters were hung on bedroom walls across the country with scotch tape and awe. And in 1985, they were also hung in a gallery by Jeff Koons, who went on to sell them for hundreds of thousands of dollars as his own work.

Call it a hostile art takeover. How else could Koons manage to appropriate six of the Costacos’ well-known basketball posters for Equilibrium, his first solo show? It was easy. He went to Nike, bought the rights for an undisclosed amount, and started printing the certificates of authenticity.

Curators can spin Koons’ conceptual power move this way and that. But here’s the real deal, straight from his 1992 Taschen book: “It’s about artists using art for social mobility…white middle-class kids have been using art the same way that other ethnic groups have been using basketball — for social mobility.”

In contemporary art and basketball, big personalities rule. Koons saw something of himself in the Costacos Brothers’ one-shot athlete mythologies. He indulged this superstar artist fantasy by finding a way to justify flipping the posters as his own product.

From the perspective of today’s age of 24/7 internet image curation, where support for authorship is zilch, the whole story doesn’t seem that shocking. The idea of cool images being re-contextualized is familiar to anyone who knows understands what “re-blog” means. But how many re-blogs have you heard of netting $150,000 at Christies?

Tracking down the Equilibrium posters on the web is difficult, these days. After all, creating scarcity is a key element of how Koons transformed them into expensive art objects. So like bedroom sunlight faded so many Costacos posters over the years, every blog hit devalues Koons’ work a tiny bit more. Enjoy.

Jeff Koons Basketball Poster

Jeff Koons Secretary of Defense

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

who’s the secretary!?! thats such an awesome poster!

awesome to hear the costacos/koons story too! your blog is a pleasure as usual!

Comment by stingy

Thanks dude!!!

The Secretary of Defense is none other than Bobby Jones, who won a chip with the Sixers in ’83, and according to Juius Erving, ran “like a deer.”

Comment by Jake

hmmm…. I am not sure Jeff see’s himself as the capable pro athlete… have you ever heard him talk?…his mind is probably more like Michael Jackson’s…who bought the Beatle’s song rights…no?…I heard Jeff say he is like Alicia Keys…

Comment by olga

art as social mobility…interesting… art classes and art schools are generally more important to students who don’t do well in school. i must look up to my father as the dr. dunkenstein of these folks….the godfather of free speech advocacy (porn), the educator of banality and all things neo pop

Comment by koonsboy

Bobby Jones-Secretary of Defense is absolutely brilliant.

Comment by Frederick

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