"JEFF KOONS: New Paintings and Sculpture" at Gagosian Gallery. Installation view. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

The art of Jeff Koons captivates me, not because of the price, his life, or his factory-like process. For me, the “art” is in the unworldly perfection of his objects, a level of quality so unbelievable that it can only be experienced or explained from 3 inches away.

At his current two-gallery exhibition in New York City, Design Milk was granted the rare opportunity to photograph the artwork at extremely close range. If you still don’t believe what you see, I highly recommend a visit to both Gagosian Gallery and David Zwirner Gallery, where the work will be on view through the end of the month.

Gagosian Gallery boasts the larger of the two exhibitions. The first room contains photo-real paintings based on digital collages of historical art, with such care and precision that brushstrokes are undetectable.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

JEFF KOONS “Antiquity 1″ 2009-2012. Oil on canvas. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Antiquity 1″ (detail). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Antiquity 1″ (detail). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

The only evidence that these are NOT high-quality prints on canvas is a peak at an unframed edge.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Antiquity 1″ (detail). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

JEFF KOONS “Hulk (Wheelbarrow)” 2004-2013. Polychromed bronze, mixed media and live flowering plants. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

This incredible “Hulk” is not plastic. Though he holds a wood wheelbarrow with real living flowers (perhaps a reference to the artist’s famous “Puppy”), the Hulk himself is entirely painted bronze.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Hulk (Wheelbarrow)” (detail). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Hulk (Wheelbarrow)” (detail). © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Though the sculpture weighs a thousand times more than a real inflatable, there is no visual difference between it and the toy EXCEPT the tiny inflation valve on the back:  on a real inflatable, this valve is translucent, but here it must be painted to LOOK translucent.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

JEFF KOONS “Gorilla” 2006-2012, Black granite. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

This 8-foot Gorilla, an enlargement of a tiny zoo souvenir, is neither plastic nor bronze. From inches away, what first appears to be dust is actually the speckled grain of the black granite (similar to my kitchen countertop) from which it was carved.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Gorilla” (detail) © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“JEFF KOONS: New Paintings and Sculpture” at Gagosian Gallery. Installation view. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Robert McKeever.

Koons’ most famous work is undoubtedly his massive “balloon animals” made from stainless steel. The high polish and transparent paint coating create a convincing illusion that you can see through the “balloons” when viewed from farther back in person. Up close however, each sculpture (a blue swan, a red monkey, and a yellow rabbit) function as funhouse mirrors for their neighborhoods, drawing attention to the flawless surface of the metal.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

JEFF KOONS “Balloon Swan (Blue)” (detail) 2004-2011. High chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

JEFF KOONS “Balloon Monkey (Red)” (detail) 2006-2013. High chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

JEFF KOONS “Balloon Rabbit (Yellow)” (detail) 2005-2010. High chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

“Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball” at David Zwirner Gallery. Installation view. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

Five blocks away at David Zwirner Gallery, Koons presents his newest work: exact copies of ancient Greco-Roman statues made from fragile white plaster, adorned with room-reflecting glass “gazing balls”.

Because the original statues were hand carved and weathered over more than two thousand years, the accuracy of his reproductions is more difficult to judge… so he proves it with a snowman and a mailbox in the same room.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Snowman)” 2013, Plaster and glass. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

This “inflatable snowman” is 100% solid white plaster.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Snowman)” (detail) © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Mailboxes)” 2013, Plaster and glass. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

My favorite piece of both shows is this set of mailboxes. There is no metal, there is no wood, and most incredibly of all, there is no wire in the handle of the bucket. ALL of it (except the blue glass ball) is 100% solid plaster. Its extreme fragility made this the most nerve-racking piece to photograph up close.

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Mailboxes)” (detail) © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Mailboxes)” (detail) © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Mailboxes)” (detail) © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

A Closer Look at Jeff Koons in art  Category

Jeff Koons “Gazing Ball (Crouching Venus)” 2013 (detail). Plaster and glass. © Jeff Koons. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

Only after a memorized inspection of every detail on the plaster mailboxes did I wander back through the exhibition to truly appreciate the ancient reproductions, now confident that every chip was intentional and every imperfection… was absolutely perfect.

What: Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculptures
Where: Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th St, New York, NY
When: May 9 – July 3, 2013

What: Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball
Where: David Zwirner Gallery, 525 W 19th St, New York, NY
When: May 8 – June 29, 2013

Unless otherwise noted, all images were photographed by the author, courtesy of Jeff Koons Studio, Gagosian Gallery, and David Zwirner Gallery.