Jeff Koons, the "king of kitsch" raises many contemporary issues in his art.
Born in Pennsylvania, he studied in Baltimore and Chicago and then moved to New York, where he began his career as an artist while working for MoMA and then on Wall Street.
In his works made from industrial materials and ordinary objects, Jeff Koons explores the notion of taste and social distinction.
This work is part of a series created for the artist's first solo exhibition in New York "Equilibrium" in 1985.
It shows several aquariums of different sizes supported by steel legs containing one, two or three basketballs floating on distilled salt water.
Here the aquarium is half full and the three balls are displayed like scientific specimens. They are thus dissociated from their traditional context, that of a very popular American sport. They are reduced to a static object, to be observed and analyzed.
Next to the aquariums, Koons places advertising posters for the Nike brand on which one can see American basketball stars wearing Nike shoes and playing with the same type of balls as those on display.
The balloon-filled aquarium, which has been elevated to the status of a work of art, follows in the footsteps of Pop Art, Minimalism and Duchamp's ready-mades, and invites the viewer to question the values of commercial society.
Koons also evokes the vanity of earthly things and alludes to social inequalities: basketball is one of the means by which young black men can climb the social ladder, while art remains a path primarily reserved for members of the bourgeoisie and white middle class.