EUPS Students Learn How to Shine

M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies

By Elizabeth Rolen 

Florence is world renowned for its Renaissance history. From the breathtaking architecture of the Duomo to the renaissance masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery, artists from around the world flock to the city to seek inspiration from the rich history and tradition of Florence’s storied streets. This Fall, another artist has come (back) to Florence. In October, contemporary artist Jeff Koons premiered his latest exhibition: Shine.

Based in New York City, Jeff Koons is world renowned for his iconic sculptural pieces including Rabbit, Balloon Dog, and Puppy, now permanently installed at the Guggenheim Bilbao. Koons’ exhibition in the Palazzo Strozzi highlights the artists’ preoccupation with the concept of shine and reflection. Speaking on his work, Koons stated, “The job of the artist is to make a gesture and really show people what their potential is. It’s not about the object, and it’s not about the image; it’s about the viewer. That’s where the art happens.”

The exhibit featured many pieces that were inspired by the classical artwork of the Renaissance. Most notably, Koons’ “gazing ball” pieces feature reflective balls set against the background of renaissance masterpieces. This dynamic both invites the audience to see themselves in the artwork, while contrasting the glossy reflection with the muted brushstrokes of the Renaissance painting. 

Jeff Koons Shine

After visiting Shine,  JMU EUPS student Malik Smith said  “it was very interesting how we were able to experience each of Jeff Koons collections, each one taking us to a vastly different context using a different medium but somehow all displaying his ability to play with and reimagine reality through art.”

One of the greatest takeaways that Jeff Koons’ art demonstrates is that there is beauty to be found in contrasts. Whether it's modern art in a city of Renaissance classics or American students in a foreign country, contrasts create beautiful juxtapositions that allow us to see things in a new light and challenge our comfort zone. And while a new environment, new classes, and new responsibilities can be daunting at times, like the art pieces in Jeff Koons’ exhibition, JMU students are using their time in Florence to truly learn how to shine.

The Jeff Koons “Shine” exhibit will be featured at the Palazzo Strozzi until 30 January 2022.

Elizabeth Rolen is an EUPS student pursuing the Foreign Policy and Internal Security track and the EUPS program’s Communications and Recruitment Graduate Assistant. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs, with a Middle East Regional concentration and minors in Arabic and Economics from JMU this May. After graduation, Elizabeth plans to pursue a career in post-conflict recovery and international diplomacy. 

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Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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