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Up on the Roof with Jeff Koons: Come for the Sculptures, Stay for the Specialty Drinks!


We like to think that in some art-obsessed family, there are cherubic youngsters who delight in chanting the names of the 10 consecutive artists who have exhibited their work solo in the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s roof garden. We bet they sing it to a catchy tune: Abakanowicz, Smith, Shapiro, Oldenburg and van Bruggen, Lichtenstein, Goldsworthy, Lewitt, Guo-Qiang, Stella! Now they can add “Koons” to their song. Starting tomorrow, the Met’s 10,000-square-foot space will welcome visitors to “Jeff Koons on the Roof,” an exhibition of three large, vibrantly-colored, chromium steel sculptures that have never before been on public display: the crowd-pleasing “Balloon Dog (Yellow)” (1994-2000), a translucent mound of multi-color squiggles called “Coloring Book” (1997-2005), and “Sacred Heart” (1994-2007), a gift-wrapped heart that stands–miraculously–on its pointed bottom tip.

Harold Holzer [the Met's senior vice president of external affairs] just commented to me how it seems that everybody is here except the Pope,” said curator and exhibition organizer Gary Tinterow, welcoming the ample crowd to this morning’s preview event. “But we do have a sacred heart here for those who like to enjoy it.” When Koons took the mic, he was his usual warm, calm, free-associating self. Calling the works “visceral” and “very strong in their effects here…with the control element of architecture and then the aspect of nature open behind it,” he compared each to a historical antecedent, with the balloon dog relating to Greek sculptures, the heart to art of the medieval period, and “Coloring Book” echoing contemporary fare. In turn, added Koons, “these works make reference to the contemporary surface that everything downstairs in the museum also has.”

But this trio of Koons sculptures has something that the works downstairs probably never will: their own specialty drinks. Through October 26, the museum’s Rose Garden cafe will offer cocktails created and named after each of the sculptures on view. And if you begin to suspect that the Balloon Dog is walking toward you, it’s time to lay off the work’s namesake drink.

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