May 27 - October 01, 2000
Split-Rocker, Palais des Papes, Avignon, France

exhibition release

All of you certainly know Puppy, Jeff Koons´ monumental sculpture realized for the first time in 1992 during the Kassel Documenta in front of Arolsen castle, and which has been marking since 1998 the entrance of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This monumental sculpture, featuring a puppy made out of 65.000 living flowers, higher than 12 meters, has achieved an indisputable success since its creation. Actually, it is the first time that an artist dares to realize such a large-scale sculpture with living flowers. Through the very utilization of these plants, the piece itself turns alive, constantly moving and changing. Free.

Facing such an artistic, technical, public and critical success, Sydney decided in 1996 to exhibit Puppy during the commemorative anniversaries of the city. There too, it was unanimously admired.
In 1998, Puppy was therefore set up at the entrance of the new Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Frank O. Gehry, the museum architect, always conceives his realizations as true works of art and generally refuses that other artworks come to interfere with its buildings. Nevertheless, when he was proposed the settling of Puppy in front of the museum, he was absolutely enthusiastic!

The osmosis with Frank Gehry´s revolutionary building is such that the Bilbao Guggenheim and Jeff Koons´ sculpture have turned out to be indissociable in the view of the entire world... Bilbao has been transformed into a colorful, vibrant city. Puppy left the art world to become a contemporary icon, a genuine "monument". Even The world is not enough, the last James Bond movie, opens with a scene of Puppy in Bilbao.

On the initiative of the Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Jeff Koons has created SPLIT-ROCKER, a monumental sculpture, with a very complex structure, made out of living flowers.

Even more immoderate, more marvelous and audacious, SPLIT-ROCKER promises to outshine the exploit of Puppy: achieving a monumental sculpture, not only popular - in the noble sense of the term: " intended for the majority, known and loved by all " - but also, artistically unfailing. Thus, for the very first time, a monumental piece of this greatly astonishing American artist is going to be manufactured and presented in France. For its world premiere, set up in the heart of the Papal Palace´s cloister in Avignon (European Cultural Capital for the year 2000), SPLIT-ROCKER will unquestionably make the break within La Beauté in Fabula, the great millennium celebration exhibition organized by the French Ministry of Culture.

From May 27 to October 1st, 2000, opens in Avignon the exhibition, queen of the millennium celebrations: La Beauté, organized by the French Ministry of Culture. During four months, beauty will explode all over the city, transforming the City of the Popes into Cultural Capital of Europe. The Palais des Papes, symbol of the historical magnificence of Avignon, shelters the leading exhibition of this event: La Beauté in Fabula.

Jeff Koons and his SPLIT-ROCKER will occupy the splendid courtyard of the Cloister Benoît XII, one of the most remarkable western middle-age monuments. The confrontation between Jeff Koons´ modernity and the medieval architecture should be sublime! The event is all the more expected since it is the very first monumental realization of Jeff Koons in France.

SPLIT-ROCKER is a two-headed piece, inspired by a children´s rocking toy and divided in two parts: one part is Dino (the head of a comics character dinosaur) and the other is Pony (the head of a pony).

75.000 alive plentifully colored flowers cover the whole and give it almost a magical aura! The separation between each part is visible, showing the internal stainless-steel structure.

"The creation of SPLIT-ROCKER comes originally from the idea of combining two children´s rockers, one featuring a pony, the other a dinosaur. I have lived with both these rockers for many years, and since then, I have always wanted to just split them down the center and then connect them with the handlebar. The result reminds me of two distinct periods of French art: Modernism and Baroque. This is a work which I hope will create an interest for everyone, enriching the life of children as well as adults ", explains the artist.

SPLIT-ROCKER is the most impressive and complex monumental sculpture ever conceived by Jeff Koons. Effectively, it is an artwork of colossal dimensions: 12,2 meters high, 9 meters long, 11,8 meters of maximal width, which totalizes a 550 m2 surface, and weights 250 tons!

Such a realization requires a very careful construction. The "body" of SPLIT-ROCKER is a stainless steel structure, a real "Meccano", where round tubes and steel sheets fit into one another within about a millimeter.

More than 22 stainless steel tons are necessary to fabricate this body! And more than 7 extra tons are needed to realize the internal structure. This is a gigantic assembling game, requiring an attention of every instant and an unbelievable know-how. The French Company Sotralinox, located in Troyes, France, has been charged to achieve this part. More than 30 persons have worked on the construction of this structure during about 3 months.

The structure is then covered by a very solid steel mesh (the steel threads are about 3 mm thick) on its entirety. This mesh cover is shaped and sculpted in order to reproduce the final contours of the sculpture in all its details. An irrigation system is also installed to ensure constant water draining to the flowers.

Once set up on the site, this shell is entirely covered with soil (approx. 107 tons of wet soil!), maintained on the structure by geotextile fabric. SPLIT-ROCKER has then only to be dressed up with its floral coat. 75.000 flower plants are then necessary to cover entirely the shell. Jeff Koons shows a sharp attention to the quality and the varieties of the selected plants: the varieties are chosen according to the fullness of their floral cover - i.e. only the colors of the flowers should be visible with as less green as possible - and the species must be maintained in optimal blossom through the internal system of irrigation. For this result, it is necessary to take into account the usual climatic conditions in the area, the season and the final location of the sculpture. The species chosen for SPLIT-ROCKER in Avignon this spring-summer are notably: Begonias, French Marigold, Petunias, Buzy Lillies and Geraniums. Each variety is then selected according to its color and its aspect, to obtain a result faithful to the artist´s desiderata.

Technical information

Weight of footing, steel structure, soil and flowers : (114 + 22 + 7 + 107) 250 tons
Pressure exerted or placed on supporting ground : 30 kPa or 3 tons /m2
Total high SPLIT-ROCKER : 12,2 m
Concrete footing size : 10,82 x 8,82 x 1 m
Steel shell size : 11 m high, 8,6 m long, 6,5 m wide at base, 11,8 m wide at handles
Steel shell weight, includes mesh : 20 to 22 tons
Internal frame (approx) : 7 tons
Duration of the structure manufacturing : 11 weeks
Soil weight, when saturated (at 10 Kn/m3) : 107 tons
Total number of flower plants placed in 40 x 40 x 3 mm thick mesh,
at about 80 mm from the centers : 75,000
Construction of footing : 2 to 3 weeks
Steel frame erection : 3 to 5 weeks
Place soil and flowers : 3 to 4 weeks
In line dripper tubing / Total length required : 1300 to 1500 m

After this over-dimensioned Meccano game of setting and assembling, begins another exploit:
planting. One by one, the 75.000 flowers are set manually on the shell. This is a long and meticulous work, but the result is worth the effort, the final work is simply gorgeous! SPLIT-ROCKER literally lives and moves according to the seasons and the blossom steps. Never always the same nor completely another, it thus offers an always beautiful and shimmering show, constantly evolving.
"When I think about Picasso´s history in Avignon, about his exhibitions here, I´m really pleased to be here".
Jeff Koons

"The piece has a feel of Picasso. A Demoiselles d´Avignon kind of quality
with one eye looking in one way and the other one in the other way."

"I think that it has a "militaristic" quality. The SPLITT-ROCKER almost seems like some sort of a weapon, something that have been capted here, preserved here, something that have some aspect of danger, a little bit like a troyan horse."

Jeff Koons