Jeff KoonsS

Jeff Koons is one of the most notable—or profitable, at least—contemporary blue-chip American artists. In 1977 Jeff Koons left Pennsylvania for New York to pursue a career as an artist. Before attracting attention in the mid-80s, he first worked at MoMA and then took a Wall Street job to pay the bills. By the end of the decade, he'd become an art world sensation thanks to his stainless-steel bunnies, basketballs floating in glass aquariums, and porcelain homages to Michael Jackson. Koons's career took a tumble during the mid-1990s. With the production costs of his large-scale sculptures spiraling out of his control, the artist nearly went bankrupt. The IRS placed a lien on his business in 1997 and he was forced to fire most of his staff. Koons bowed out of the scene for a few years, returning at the end of the '90s with fresh financing (from Larry Gagosian) just in time for the art boom, which has since raised the prices of his works to record levels. To satisfy demand, Koons now operates from a vast, Annabelle Selldorf-designed studio on the West Side, where more than 80 trained assistants help him pump out pieces using a "paint-by-numbers" system that ensures they all look like they were created by the same hand.