Jeff Koons Will Work With Teenagers on Upcoming Soho Mural

The project will evoke the "evolution" of downtown New York.

Jeff Koons with Split-Rocker at Rockefeller Center in 2014. Courtesy of J Grassi/Patrick McMullan.

Real estate impresario Aby Rosen is hoping to turn over a new leaf—at least, on the public relations front—with his forthcoming Soho hotel project at 11 Howard Street. The Wall Street Journal reports that the swank spot will donate an undisclosed percentage of its room revenue to the Global Poverty Project, a non-profit organization working to alleviate extreme poverty. What’s more, Rosen has tapped artist Jeff Koons to advise area teens on a mural to be painted on the building’s facade.

Koons has teamed up with Groundswell, a non-profit that focuses on giving disadvantaged youth opportunities to create community-based art projects around the city. The artist is currently working with a group of students on the mural’s design and implementation, and even hosted them for an afternoon in his studio. He will not, however, be designing the actual contents of the mural himself, so don’t expect any shiny balloon animals to be on display.

“It’s a way to send a valentine to the community,” explained Groundswell interim director Rob Krulak via telephone. “We’ve done extensive research into Soho and all the things that have gone on there and from there developed a visual language from which to tell the story.”

A rendering of 11 Howard. Photo: Ivor Creative Inc.

A rendering of 11 Howard.
Photo: Ivor Creative Inc.

Rosen described the mural to WSJ, which is slated to be complete for the hotel’s opening in March, as an “interpretation of the evolution of Soho through symbolism and imagery.”

Krulak, however, was a bit more forthcoming with the specifics: “There’s pasta in it, there’s an industrial worker, there’s tenements. There’s a little Basquiat crown. It has the visual texture and variety of Soho.”

Krulak also revealed that while initial plans for the mural specified it would be black and white, Koons was adamant that there needed to be pops of color. “There’s a shade of blue that he’s very passionate about that he uses in a lot of his work, and that will be featured,” he said.

The project is a bit of a departure for Groundswell, which was founded in 1996 and is best known for creating social-engaged murals in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Brownsville. However, recent murals by the group in Clinton Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard have similarly riffed on the area’s history and shifting social landscape.

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