Jeff Koons’s New York–based studio has signed a lease on the eighth and tenth floors of 475 Tenth Avenue in Hudson Yards to use as offices, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. In the process, the studio has downsized, ARTnews has learned.
So far this week, there has been a series of layoffs, though the exact number of workers who have been let go is not yet clear. Some employees took to social media to make the layoffs public. “It’s an end of an era,” one wrote. Another said on Instagram that she had lost her job because the studio was downsizing.
Repeated requests for comment from the studio by email and phone were not returned. Reached by phone this evening, a representative for the studio said no one was available to comment.
The last major round of layoffs at the studio occurred in 2017, when the company let 30 workers go, among them assistants who had worked at the studio for decades. The studio also laid off workers in 2015 and 2016.
At the start of 2015, Koons’s studio employed more than 100 painters, some of which were tasked with working on his “Gazing Ball” series, which features blue orbs alongside reproductions of Old Masters paintings. But, according to a 2017 Artnet News report, “lackluster” sales for works from the series, which has been shown at David Zwirner and Gagosian galleries in New York, forced the studio to scale back its operations. In late 2015, around 30 employees were laid off. The following year, the blog Art F City reported that Koons’s studio had let go of 15 employees amid attempts by its workers to form a union.
Koons’s studio had been expected to leave its longtime home in Chelsea, at 601 West 29th Street, for several years. News broke in 2014 that it was to be evicted from the location to make way for an apartment tower; the following year, the Real Deal reported that Koons had purchased three lots on West 52nd Street in Hell’s Kitchen for a combined $23.7 million. Last month, the enterprise moved out of West 29th into 475 Tenth Avenue. Reached by phone, KCD, a fashion services agency that moved onto the eighth floor in 2017, said it could not comment on the matter.
Koons and his work have been the subject of several lawsuits in the past year. In April 2018, ARTnews reported that collector Steven Tananbaum had sued Jeff Koons, LLC and Gagosian Gallery, Inc. for the “non-delivery” of three sculptures by the artist for which he paid a total of $13 million. That same month, film producer Joel Silver sued Gagosian; court filings stated that he was “frustrated by the delay and skeptical of when, if ever, [a] Balloon Venus” sculpture by the artist that he had agreed to purchase for $8 million in 2017 would be delivered. (Koons’s studio was not named as a defendant in the Silver lawsuit.)
In November, following a four-year legal battle, a French court found Koons guilty of copyright infringement. That case concerned an advertisement for a French clothing brand, which Koons later used as the basis for his sculpture Fait d’Hiver. The Koons work was on view at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 2014 as part of Koons’s traveling retrospective. Koons, his company, and the museum were ordered to pay the ad’s creator €135,000 (about $154,000). Koons’s studio was also fined €11,000 for posting an image of Fait d’Hiver on its website, and a publishing house that printed a picture of the work in a book was made to pay €2,000.
A small exhibition of works by Koons will open at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, England, in February. Later this year, Koons’s work will be featured in a major exhibition at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. Titled “Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even,” that 70-work exhibition will be curated by New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni and is slated to open in May.