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York County is in the blood for international artist Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons poses for pictures after a York Rotary Club event. - (Photo / David O'Connor)

York native and world-renowned artist Jeff Koons had no trouble remembering childhood visits to the Haines Shoe House, east of York, and trips to the York Fair and Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

His father, an interior decorator, ran Henry J. Koons Interiors on York’s East Market Street, and the younger Koons remembered finding “a sense of self” when he was 4 years old.

His drawings at the time earned rave review from his family.

Those York County memories remain for Koons, considered by some to be one of the most successful American artists since Andy Warhol.

His eclectic public sculptures and pieces attract record prices. Take Koons’ “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sculpture. It once sold in New York for $58.4 million, which at the time was the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction.

Koons told the York Rotary Club, about 300 York-area business and community leaders gathered Wednesday at the Wyndham Garden York, of how York County influenced his work.

“His inspiration comes out of his roots in the community, so that was an important message for us, an organization that also draws its strength from the community,” said Rotary’s president, the Rev. Patrick Rooney, the retired pastor of York’s Christ Lutheran Church.

The club tried for two years to bring in Koons, a graduate of the Dover Area School District in the 1970s.

Koons, who will be 62 on Saturday, told the group how he’s “as excited today about my work as I was 40 years ago when I moved to New York and got a little traction” in the art world. He now shares time in New York and on his family farm in eastern York County.

Koons lives with his wife, Justine, and his six children. When in York County he participates in activities like attending York Revolution baseball games. The team had a bobblehead night for Koons this past summer.

His advice for Rotarians was simple: Get involved, follow your interests. “Whenever anyone gave me an opportunity, I wanted to participate,” he said. “What else do we have if we don’t have our interests?”

Asked by an audience member if he would ever create a piece for York, Koons said he would like to someday.

Despite his fame, Koons has been involved “in keeping the rural character in the southern part of (York County), and that’s good,” said Stephany Sechrist, his second cousin. “That’s what we’re all called to do.”

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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