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Acclaimed American artist Jeff Koons explains a few of his most popular works

Jeff Koons's "Celebration" series
Jeff Koons explains some of his most famous works | 60 Minutes 04:02

Renowned for his stainless steel, balloon-like sculptures, Jeff Koons is one of the world's most famous and controversial contemporary artists. His towering, playful works often push the boundaries of technology and can take years, sometimes even decades, to make. And though plenty of art critics scoff at his creations, Koons' pieces have been showcased at some of the world's most prestigious museums and galleries.   

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Anderson Cooper spoke with Jeff Koons about what inspired his "Celebration" series, which he started working on in 1993. The series is comprised of 16 sculptures and 16 photorealistic paintings, all with simple and playful names such as "Pink Bow," "Cake," "Party Hat" and "Balloon Dog." 

60 Minutes visited one of the 10-foot-tall balloon dog sculptures with Koons at the Broad museum in Los Angeles.

Though the pieces appear simplistic and cheerful, a darker, more personal backstory influenced the "Celebration" works. In 1991, Koons married Hungarian adult film actress turned member of the Italian Parliament, Ilona Staller. They later divorced, and during those proceedings, Koons said Staller took their son Ludwig to Italy in what he called a parental abduction.  

Koons says making the "Celebration" series helped him move forward.

"I was never able to get my son back. But, you know, I was able to communicate, I think, that I cared about him," he said.

His newest project "Moon Phases" is among his most ambitious: As of last month, it is the first "authorized" work of art on the moon. "Moon Phases" consists of 125 unique works that depict the shadows of the moon as seen by Earth. The piece consists of three components: miniature sculptures that now rest on the surface of the moon; an NFT, or non-fungible token, for each sculpture that serves as digital proof of the art; and larger, replica sculptures to keep here on Earth. "Moon Phases" touched down on the lunar surface in the Odysseus spacecraft in February. 

The video above was originally published on May 21, 2023 and was edited by Will Croxton.

Editor's note: About 10 years ago, Anderson Cooper bought a work by Jeff Koons at a charity auction.

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