Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Cover: Artist Jeff Koons Explains What It All Means

Artist breaks down his ARTPOP cover for MTV News.

In her ARTPOP single “Applause,” Lady Gaga sings, “One second I’m a Koons, then suddenly the Koons is me,” a statement about mingling art and pop and transcending the bonds of genre definition. In creating the artwork for her upcoming record, American artist Jeff Koons was dealing with transcendence as well, casting Gaga in a variety of metamorphic roles in a single image.

Gaga has been flirting with the art world, fittingly, around the November 11 release of ARTPOP, becoming a muse for performance artist Marina Abramovic and tapping Koons to create her album art. That art mingles together a variety of Koons’ pieces — from “Woman in Tub” to his gazing ball series, also represented in Gaga’s VMA performance of “Applause.”

In addition to creating the album cover — which features a photo of Gaga naked, cupping her breasts — Koons also created a “larger than life” statue of Mother Monster, he told MTV News, that will be revealed at Gaga’s Art Rave in New York City on Sunday (November 10), ahead of the record’s release. Koons said he only made one statue, and plans are uncertain as of now as to what its future will be.

Ahead of the Rave, MTV News spoke with Koons about meeting Gaga, his album art and, of course, transcendence.

On Meeting Gaga:

“The first time that I met Lady Gaga was at the Metropolitan Museum’s annual ball, the fashion ball. And Gaga performed and she did a fantastic performance. Afterwards I was with Miuccia Prada and Gaga came up to say ‘hello’ to Miuccia and I was introduced to her and it was amazing. She just kind of grabbed ahold of me and gave me a big hug around my waist and she just said, ‘You know, Jeff, I’ve been such a fan of yours, and when I was a kid just hanging out in Central Park I would talk to my friends about your work.’ I was thrilled. I had just watched Gaga give an incredible performance and I was always a big fan. It was very meaningful. So that was the first time I met her. And that was probably about three years ago.”

On Getting The Call:

“I guess in late spring of this year we received a telephone call, my studio, from Brandon [Maxwell], a very close friend of Gaga’s, her stylist that she works with. And [he] said that there was interest that I would work on the album.”

On The Meaning Of The Gazing Ball:

“She came and she saw my gazing ball show that I had at the David Zwirner Gallery this summer. She loved the work. She got down on the floor in front of some of the sculptures, especially a sculpture of Ariadne. These pieces were all white plaster — I would take classical sculptures and have a mold of them made and I would put a gazing ball on it.

“What was beautiful about that work was the accessibility of the ball — that reflective ball that many people have in their yards as a symbol of generosity to your neighbors. But when you’d look at it you’d feel this transcendence where the ball would become everything and it would be about a mass dialogue about people not only wanting transcendence for themselves, but involved with the community discussing transcendence and what the possibilities are for humans.”

On The ARTPOP Cover:

“With the cover, I wanted to have Gaga there as a sculpture, as a three-dimensional type of form and with the gazing ball, because the gazing ball really does become kind of the symbol for everything — and this aspect of reflection that when you come across something like a gazing ball, it affirms you, it affirms your existence and then from that affirmation, you start to want more. There’s a transcendence that takes place and eventually it really leads you to everything. So that aspect’s there.”

On Gaga As Apollo:

“But I didn’t want Gaga there just kind of isolated, so in the background there’s [Gian Lorenzo] Bernini’s ‘Apollo and Daphne’ — and that’s the work where Apollo chases Daphne and she turns into a tree. And so there’s just glimpses of Daphne’s face and of Apollo. Apollo is the god of music and whenever Apollo would perform music he would transcend, he would change; his being would become more feminine. And that’s the transcendence that you can experience through art and life. Your being can change, your possibilities can change, your perimeters can change.”

On Gaga As Venus:

“And also in this triangular shapes that go out is Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus,’ presenting Gaga of course in the role of Venus — of the nature of the continuation of life’s energy and the pursuit and the enjoyment of aesthetics and of beauty. And of the desire to continually have transcendence.”

Senior writer/editor at MTV News. Former Mashable associate editor & CNN columnist. "Stuff Hipsters Hate" co-writer. Moshpit fan.
@BrennaEhrlich