Pop art

Jeff Koons and His Balloon Dogs

Zuzanna Stańska 7 November 2021 min Read

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 $58.4M at a Christie’s auction, becoming one of the most expensive artworks by a living artist ever sold at an auction.

Jeff Koons (b. 1955) is an artist who blends the themes 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 $58.4 million (above its high $55 million estimate), becoming the most expensive artwork by a living artist sold at auction for five years. Koons beat his own record in 2019, selling his stainless steel Rabbit for $91.1 million at another Christie’s auction.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Dog Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange)
Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2000. Christie’s.

There are five of Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dogs. They measure 307.3 × 363.2 × 114.3 cm. Each 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 that 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.

Balloon Dogs are not the only balloon sculptures by Koons. Below you can see other noteworthy Koons balloon animal 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, (L-R) Balloon Swan (Blue), Balloon Monkey (Red), Balloon Rabbit (Yellow), May 9, 2013, Gagosian Gallery, New Yor, NY, 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.
Pink Balloon Dog photographed on September 9, 2008, Château de Versailles, Versailles, France.

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)
Jay Z performs live on stage during V Festival 2017 at Hylands Park on August 20, 2017, Chelmsford, UK. Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images.

Recommended

Pop art

Rosalyn Drexler: Wrestling Feminist in the Pop Art World

Rosalyn Drexler is an American artist born in the Bronx, New York, in 1926. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City before...

Guest Profile 13 June 2021

Pop art

10 Masterpieces of 20th Century Pop Art You Should Know

Dominating the 20th century with iconic imagery, Pop Art’s effects on the art world are still being felt today. Here are 10 of the most significant...

Guest Profile 12 June 2021

Pop art

Pride Month: Andy Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen

The club “The Gilded Grape”, situated in the no man’s land of Eighth Avenue and West 45th Street in New York City, was a hub of drag...

Magda Michalska 27 June 2021

Pop art

Corita Kent: Pop Art Nun

Corita Kent was an artist, an educator, and a Roman Catholic nun. She created bold, colourful pop art posters to confront social...

Candy Bedworth 28 January 2021