Publicity was not just Warhol’s great subject. It was also his medium, and the same can be said of Jeff Koons. The artist’s Made In Heaven remains a watershed moment in the interaction between the art world and celebrity culture. A series of sculptures and paintings famously – and flagrantly – celebrating the artist’s nuptials with the Hungarian-born porn star and politician Ilona Staller, also known as La Cicciolina, Made in Heaven not only secured the artist’s leading role on the international art stage but swept him into tabloid fame.
Koons first contacted La Cicciolina after seeing her in pornographic magazines. The photographs that followed suggest the enactment of a sexual fantasy, which soon became reality as a relationship developed and the couple were eventually married. For Koons, the images presented the pair as a latter-day Adam and Eve, ‘situated after the Fall, but without the guilt and shame’.
Made in Heaven began as an outdoor billboard for a group exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York in 1989, resembling a poster for an imaginary film. A further set of photographs was shown at the Venice Biennale of 1990, and the work was completed shortly after the couple’s marriage in 1991. The final version was more explicit than previous ones, where the sexual act was only mimicked. Koons’s body was also transformed for the later works, becoming groomed and more muscular, in order to be – in his own words – a ‘vehicle of greater communication’.