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Jeff Koons and His Balloon Dogs

20th century

Jeff Koons and His Balloon Dogs

What do Jeff Koons, Jay Z, Christie’s, and clowns have in common? Balloon dogs! Read how an artwork looking like a huge toy hit USD 58.4m at a Christie’s auction becoming one of the most expensive artworks by a living artist ever sold at auction.

Jeff Koons (b. 1955) is an artist who blends the concerns and methods of Pop, Conceptual, and appropriation art with craft-making and popular culture to create his own unique iconography that is often controversial and always engaging. His work explores contemporary obsessions with sex and desire, race, gender, celebrity, media, commerce, and fame. A self-proclaimed “idea man,” Koons hires artisans and technicians to make the actual works. Jeff Koons’ most iconic works are his balloon dogs.

His works have sold for substantial sums, including at least one world record auction price for a work by a living artist. On November 12, 2013, Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City for USD 58.4 million (above its high USD 55 million estimate) becoming the most expensive artwork by a living artist sold at auction for five years. It was dethroned only by the David Hockney‘s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) in 2018 but remains in the third position worldwide to this day.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Dog Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange)
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dogs: Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 121 x 143 x 45 in. Christie’s.

There are five of Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dogs. They measure 307.3×363.2×114.3 cm. Every work is made from precision engineered, mirror-polished, stainless steel and finished with a translucent coating of either blue, magenta, orange, red, or yellow.

The stainless steel orange sculpture with transparent color coating is one of the first balloon dogs. It looks like the kind of souvenir clowns make at birthday parties. Other pups have been on display around the world in red, green, and blue — not to mention a shiny pink one made it to Versailles in 2008.

Koons said, “I’ve always enjoyed balloon animals because they’re like us. We’re balloons. You take a breath and you inhale, it’s an optimism. You exhale, and it’s kind of a symbol of death.” (And somewhere, a clown just cried…).

Balloon Dogs are not the only balloon sculptures by Koons. Below you can see other noteworthy Koons balloon sculptures from recent years.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Dog (L-R) Balloon Swan (Blue), Ballon Monkey (Red), Balloon Rabbit (Yellow) at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City on May 9, 2013
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dogs: Jeff Koons, (L-R) Balloon Swan (Blue), Balloon Monkey (Red), Balloon Rabbit (Yellow), May 9, 2013, Gagosian Gallery in New York City, USA.

This shocking pink Balloon Dog photographed on September 9, 2008, at the Château de Versailles, sparked controversy as some visitors said the work was crude and too modern for Louis XIV’s former palace.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Dog This shocking pink Balloon Dog photographed on September 9, 2008, at the Château de Versailles sparked controversy as some visitors said the work was crude and too modern for Louis XIV’s former palace.
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dogs: Pink Balloon Dog photographed on September 9, 2008, at the Château de Versailles

The Balloon Dog has become a symbol of pop culture. Jay Z apparently is a huge fan of Koons, once rapping about them in his 2013 song Picasso Baby.

“Oh what a feeling, f*** it I want a billion
Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up”

Picasso Baby lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Ole Media Management Lp

He also performed with a copy of the Balloon Dog during his concerts in 2017.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Dog CHELMSFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jay Z performs live on stage during V Festival 2017 at Hylands Park on August 20, 2017 in Chelmsford, England. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dogs: Jay Z performs live on stage during V Festival 2017 at Hylands Park on August 20, 2017, Chelmsford, England. Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images.

Read more on Jeff Koons:

Art Historian, founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

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