Jeff Koons to have first-ever one-man art exhibition in Tel Aviv

The arrival of Jeff Koons to Israel, both in person and in his creations, is a momentous occasion for the Israeli art community and the museum.

JEFF KOONS - Hulk (Rock), 2004-2013 (photo credit: JEFF KOONS)
JEFF KOONS - Hulk (Rock), 2004-2013
(photo credit: JEFF KOONS)
Most of us, at least those who use social media, have had a moment when Google or Facebook reminds us of where we were one, two or three years ago. Sometimes, these images of the past hit at a fortuitous junction and seem almost otherworldly.
So it was for Tania Coen-Uzzielli, the new director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, when Google Photos reminded her that one year ago, she was visiting the formidable art collection of Marie and Jose Mugrabi
“I was there looking at his collection of works by Jeff Koons,” she said. “I asked him if he would be willing to do a Jeff Koons exhibition at our museum. We were looking at the catalogue of his collection together and I was snapping photos of it.”
Coen-Uzzielli is an impressive person. Originally from Italy, her flawless Hebrew is tinted with an accent. She is a self-proclaimed lover of objects. Her vantage point on the art world is expansive and her goals for the museum clear.
In her first year at the helm of Tel Aviv Mueseum of Art she has already put many initiatives in motion, including the revival of the museum’s donor circle, a more collaborative offering to individual donors and the deepening of international ties, specifically to the American Jewish community. Mugrabi is one of these contacts, an Israeli-born art expert in New York City.
Now, Coen-Uzzielli is about to preside over the opening of the first Jeff Koons exhibition in Israel - ‘Jeff Koons: Absolute Value’ from the collection of Jose and Marie Mugrabi.
“This is an incredibly expensive and complicated exhibition to bring to Israel, and it has been made possible by the immense generosity of Jose and Marie Mugrabi,”  she says.
In fact, to put up the exhibition, more than 10 experts will arrive at TAMA from all over the globe to ensure that the sculptures are cared for and placed correctly. The exhibition was curated by Doron Rabina together with associate curator Shahar Molcho.
The arrival of Jeff Koons to Israel, both in person (Koons will attend the opening) and in his creations, is a momentous occasion for the Israeli art community and the museum. Koons is one of the most commercially successful artists of all time, holding the record for having sold the most expensive piece of art by a living artist.
In May 2019, his sculpture Rabbit sold for a whopping $91.1 million. Koons’s work, which has elicited controversy among art critics, depicts everyday objects with high-polished mirrored surfaces. His most iconic works are his balloon-like animals. Whether Koons strikes a high note with viewers or not, his impact on American contemporary art is unquestionable.
“He is a very popular artist,” said Coen-Uzzielli. “His work is shiny, glossy, but that does not take away from how significant his contribution to contemporary art is. It isn’t just shiny. It is connected to art history and archaeology in a significant way.”
She went on to explain that this exhibition feels like a natural next step from the museum’s highly successful of ‘Andy Warhol - Wanted’ exhibition (2013), of selected works from the Mugrabi collection.
“The museum is a platform that tells one big story,” she said. “Each season has its own blend of voices. Our mission is to preserve and present modern art. The museum is open to everyone, and I believe that everyone can enjoy it and find something here.”
A personal passion of Coen-Uzzielli’s is reaching out to young audiences, specifically young children. Since her arrival at TAMA, she championed the opening of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Family Experimental Center.
“This past summer, we saw an 85% rise in children visitors to the museum. This subject is really close to my heart. I believe that we, as adults, need to be more sensitive to what is going on with the next generation and to be precise and careful about how we raise our children. People come to the museum and, like at a hospital, they don’t know who they will meet. They experience the art but also the others around them. This is so important for children. Here, they learn principles for life like how to observe their surroundings, how to exist in a common space and be sensitive to it and to others.”
Coen-Uzzielli is confident that the Koons exhibition will be a major draw for young viewers.
‘Jeff Koons: Absolute Value / From the Collection of Marie and Jose Mugrabi’ will run from March 10-October 10. For more information, visit