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MOCA names its spring gala honoree: Jeff Koons

MOCA names its spring gala honoree: Jeff Koons
A detail from Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog (Magenta)," 2015. (Jeff Koons)

The Museum of Contemporary Art's 2017 gala promises to be a bright and shiny affair this year, honoring New York artist Jeff Koons, known for his vibrantly colored, metallic work.

Riffing off Koons' aesthetic, the museum said it will transform the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, immersing guests at the April 29 event in rich colors and reflective surfaces. Koons' ongoing "Celebration" series of sculptures and paintings will serve as inspiration.

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MOCA chose Koons as its guest of honor because of his contributions as an artist and a philanthropist. He is "among the most innovative and forward thinking sculptors of our time," the museum said in a statement. Koons also has been a generous benefactor to MOCA during the last five years, bringing in more than $5 million.

"We rarely consider artists in their roll as philanthropists," MOCA Director Philippe Vergne said in a statement. "They give a great deal to institutions by donating their work to collections, by giving their work to benefit auctions, and by writing checks. However, they are seldom recognized in this capacity.

"Jeff has shown remarkable generosity to MOCA, and this is our chance to say thank you and celebrate his monumental contributions to culture and his unsung philanthropy, and by supporting MOCA, Jeff Koons supports all the artists that the museum works with. He makes experimentation and risk taking possible; he allows us to stay ahead."

Koons' work draws hefty prices at auction. A "Tulips" sculpture sold for $33.7 million in 2012 at Christie's in New York.

Among Koons' gifts to MOCA are his plaster and glass sculpture "Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden)," which sold for more than $1.5 million in the museum's 2015 benefit auction with Sotheby's. Sales of his limited edition "Balloon Dog" plates — produced in partnership with MOCA and French porcelain maker Bernardaud — have generated about $3.5 million for the museum so far.

Three of those "Celebration" series works — "Balloon Dog (Orange)," "Balloon Dog (Magenta)" and "Balloon Dog (Yellow)" — will be on view at the April gala.

MOCA trustees Lilly Tartikoff Karatz and Maurice Marciano will co-chair the event.

Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin

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