Doctor’s Orders: Jeff Koons

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Published July 15, 2010

Jeff Koons, the artist famous for giant puppy reproductions, inflatable bunnies, hearts, and a variety of other shiny balloon sculptures, is now bringing pop imagery to places you wouldn’t expect. One example is Chicago Hopes Children’s Hospital where, where since the official ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 29th, you’ll find his trademark monkey head painted on the face of a CT scanner.

The installation, which also includes his iconic balloon dog, heart, and donkey as wallscapes in the scanner room, was created for the non-profit organization RxArt, which commissions work from contemporary artists for children’s healthcare facilities all over the country. They’ve previously brightened another colorless space, the coloring book, by making one with contributions by Sol LeWitt, Vito Acconci, and John Baldessari, among others.
 
The director of RxArt, Diane Brown, explained that the works are meant to exist in sharp contrast to the “hospital art” patients, especially children, usually see in examination rooms: “I really don’t want a tree in a pond, or a Jacob’s Ladder.” The work RxArt focuses on is challenging, but  “in a positive way.” For Brown, whose background includes over 16 years of curating before opening RxArt  in 2000, the scanner project was particularly important. She thought up the idea while dealing with her own health problems: “As I was getting a CAT Scan, I imagined a Mathew Ritchie piece crawling up around the corners of the room. Next thing I knew, the process was over.” So controversial as Koons can be, the critics will have to get their heads around this one, says Brown: “They can be as divided as they want—the project is really about the children,” who have so far loved the piece.