Jeff Koons Lays Off Over a Dozen Staffers After They Tried to Unionize

It's not all fun and games in Koons-land these days.

Artist Jeff Koons poses next to one of his sculptures during a press preview of "Jeff Koons: A Retrospective" a exhibition of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art June 24, 2014. Courtesy of TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images.

At a recent panel on the art market in Dallas, Hauser & Wirth partner Paul Schimmel said, “I think Jeff Koons turns those fabricators into his bitches and gets things that are unbelievable.”

But are Koons’s “bitches” biting back?

Paddy Johnson and Rhett Jones at Art F City suggests Koons is currently having some labor issues with his extensive staff. Citing “anonymous sources,” Johnson says Koons studio operation in Chelsea has laid off 14 night crew staffers “who were attempting to unionize and one day crew member who was friendly with those night crew organizers.”

It’s not the first time speculation has swirled around Koons sizeable studio practice. In a 2012 first-person account in the New York Times, former studio assistant John Powers, who made $14 an hour, said of Koons: “He was a perfectionist who promptly fired assistants whenever they failed to meet his standards.”

Artist Jeff Koons attends the Jeff Koons x Google launch on May 09, 2016 in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

Artist Jeff Koons attends the Jeff Koons x Google launch on May 09, 2016 in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

Details are admittedly “scant,” Johnson notes, but it appears that anyone who was hired after June 1 was let go. No one could speak due to “fear of reprisal and potential for future litigation,” however. Art F City was told that legal proceedings are currently underway. Some staff painters were reportedly given a raise recently, though it is not clear whether this was done in connection with unionization efforts.

A 2013 Hyperallergic article suggests that given the frequency and consistency with which Koons’s studio assistant job listings crop up on the website for New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), it isn’t such a great gig to have.

A representative from United Scenic Artists, Local 829, which was reportedly consulted by the workers, writes to artnet News in an email: “United Scenic Artists has no comment at this time. We may have something to say in the matter at a later date.”

An email to Koons’s studio was not returned by publication time.


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