In the PR offensive geared toward the launch of the Joannou show at the New Museum curated by Jeff Koons, The New York Times sent Randy Kennedy to hang out with Koons and talk about his art collection.
In one corner hangs an early-16th-century painted bust of a hollow-cheeked, very tender-looking Jesus by Quentin Massys, the first important painter of the Antwerp school. Across the way, perhaps reflecting Mr. Koons’s love of mingling the sacred and the profane, a risqué Fragonard stares back, showing a young woman cradling a pair of puppies at her bared breasts. But for the most part this extremely private collection, piled up salon style on the walls, seems far more classicist than Koonsian, like an eccentric little gallery transplanted from the Met: Manet, Courbet, Poussin and scholars’ delights like Nikolaus Knüpfer and Cornelis van Haarlem.
Over his big flat-screen television, where a late Picasso now on loan used to hang, is an 1873 Courbet that Mr. Koons particularly treasures. […] By the late 1980s, as his star and his bank balance rose precipitously, he began to collect high-end work by artists he loved, like Lichtenstein, but he was forced to sell a lot of it during an acrimonious divorce and custody battle with his first wife, the Italian porn star and politician Ilona Staller. […] But as his fortunes roared back in recent years, he began pouring a significant amount of his wealth into building a collection, joining high-profile contemporary artists like Damien Hirst and John Currin in concentrating heavily on old masters and 19th-century works. […] Mr. Koons doesn’t like to talk about prices, but since he buys mostly at auction, they are more or less public; the Courbet bull, for example, went for $2.5 million, and the entire collection is easily worth more than 10 times that. It resides mostly in his bedroom for safety’s sake; he and his wife, Justine, have four young sons and a fifth child on the way.
The Koons Collection (New York Times)