Jeff Koons, Part-Time Preparator

1980s Artists Exhibitions Staff

Mary E. Ittelson remembers Jeff Koons before he was a household name.

When I first started working at the MCA, and that would have been—oh my gosh, that would have been in the late eighties I guess, there was this very obscure artist. We had his first show and he had been a preparator here.

And I was new to the museum and the work oddly fascinated me but mystified me because I had come from the performing arts world and didn’t know much about the visual arts world. But it was these basketballs floating in water. And no one knew who Jeff Koons was. And people didn't really understand who Jeff Koons was. They remembered him as the preparator, the part-time preparator at the MCA.

But it was his first show, and then it was pretty extraordinary, years later, when we did a giant retrospective of his work. And that was possible—other museums wanted to do it—but it was possible because we had done his first show.

Installation view, Jeff Koons: Works 1979–1988, Jul 1–Aug 28, 1988. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, Jeff Koons: Works 1979–1988, Jul 1–Aug 28, 1988. Photo © MCA Chicago.

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