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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Jeff Koons: King of kitsch
Lips 2000
Lips 2000: Themes of food, fashion and fun
by BBC News Online's Olive Clancy

Jeff Koons' work seems like a fitting complement to the Edinburgh Festival.

Big, brash, playful and with plentiful allusions to sex and clowning, what could be more apt?

The seven large new paintings on show at the Fruitmarket Gallery are multi-layered riots of brightly painted toenails, lips, plaits, doughnuts, swirling spirals and eyelashes.

Called Easyfun-Ethereal, they are a pleasure to wander amongst and a relatively quiet haven from the muggy streets.

Koons' Niagara 2000
Niagara: The show is a coup for Edinburgh
Reading the brochure I find they are full of references to high and low culture, mixing surreal images with snatches from adverts.

The first, enormous, canvas as you go in is entitled Sandwiches - a jumble of archetypal US deli-style sandwiches, complete with olive eyes and a chocolate smear moustache.

They make you want to laugh out loud.

I have always thought that Koons was a bit of a chancer, if a very clever one.

His life-size sculpture of Michael Jackson with Bubbles recently sold for £4m, while his huge kitsch puppy covered in real growing flowers has stood outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Rockefeller Plaza in New York.

You can just see the artist giggle over it all as he studiously monitors his own fame.

Koons was once a highly successful stock trader but is now a superstar in the art world.

He is a notorious self-publicist and after his marriage to Italian porn-star and politician MP Ilona Staller, best known as La Cicciolina, made sculptures and took photographs of the two of them naked.

Michael Jackson with Bubble by Jeff Koons
Koons' Michael Jackson sculpture recently sold for millions
Their marriage subsequently broke down amid huge publicity - the couple have a child over which they have conducted a lengthy and public custody battle.

One of the new works, Lips, was created as a message of love to his son, Ludwig, but you would be hard pressed to know what Koons wanted to tell him.

Full of disembodied lips, eyes along with floating sweet-corn, orange quarters and blonde hair, there is a definite homage to Dali here.

The man himself flew in at the weekend to open the exhibition and demonstrated that fame has not gone to his head by signing anything and everything that was offered him.

I think this may be the message of Easyfun-Ethereal - enjoy the visual treat, laugh and maybe try to figure them out, but do not take the show too seriously.

Easyfun-Ethereal is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh to 12 September

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