Document Type



This essay examines the unusual reception of the artist Jeff Koons’s “Made in Heaven” series (1989–1992), which paradoxically remains both Koons’s most notorious and underanalyzed body of work. Significantly, many of Koons’s formerly supportive critics responded with near total silence to the larger-than-life photographic prints on canvas of Koons and his thenwife, the Italian porn star Ilona Staller, nude and engaged in a variety of sex acts. Moreover, “Made in Heaven” attracted no attention whatsoever from the religious and political forces that mobilized against artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe in the same year as the series’ debut. This essay compares the critical silence that greeted “Made in Heaven” with the flurry of media attention bestowed on artists such as Mapplethorpe, in order to examine the ways in which Koons was effectively allowed by the art world to recuperate from what was institutionally viewed as an embarrassing public performance of his own sexuality. It examines privacy and reproductive heterosexuality as entwined legal and social constructs in United States history, asking how, in the wake of a nationwide tide of antipornography sentiment and of the gravely significant ruling on sexuality and privacy that was the 1986 Supreme Court decision Bowers v. Hardwick, did Koons’s blatantly pornographic work escape significant political attention?