Handsome, globe-trotting playboy Jeff Koons, the self-proclaimed “most written-about
artist in the world,” works from his busy “Jeff Koons Productions, Inc.”
studio at 600 Broadway in NYC. Born in 1955, Jeff started his meteoric
rise in the 1980’s by turning contemporary american iconography and popular
kitsch into controversial high art. Koons signature works feature strikingly
simple imagery transformed into sculptures using the finest of materials.
Koons’ sculptures have recenty sold as for as much as $1.8 million or $721
per sq. inch! He has even written a book about himself and his work: “The
Jeff Koons Handbook.” Why should you care?
Because Jeff Koons is a balloon
artist, and his balloon sculptures are absolutely gorgeous!
What distinguishes Koons’ balloon art from ours is that he doesn’t make
balloon animals — no, this contemporary artist makes sculptures of
balloon animals. Well, “make” is too strong a word… you see, Jeff isn’t
very “hands-on.” Though he studied at the Maryland College of Art and the
Art Institute of Chicago, Koons lacks skill in sculpture, drawing, or painting.
Instead he jots down notes and ideas, then has them brought to fruition
by European craftsmen or the 35 assistants who populate his studio. In
an interview Koons described it this way. “I’m basically the idea person.
I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary
abilities, so I go to the top people…”
Koons’ detractors say he has earned both fame and lavish compensation
in the same spirit as have Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and Milli Vanilli.
However, the perfectionist Koons knows what he wants and makes sure things
turn out right. Koons’ frequent goal is to present common objects as is.
“When I’m working with an object I always have to give the greatest consideration
not to alter the object physically or even psychologically. I try to reveal
a certain aspect of the object’s personality. I’m placing the object in
a context or material which will enhance a specific personality trait within
the object. The soul of the object must be maintained…”
An early balloon-related work is his 1986 “Rabbit,” a cute, warm, soft
inflatable bunny, cast in cold, hard 41 x 19 x 12 inch stainless steel.
The sculpture’s highly polished surface has the eerie effect of including
the viewer in its cool reflection regardless of the angle from which it
Click on the image for a close-up.
Here is Koons’ 1995 “Balloon Dog” – a three-dimensional, limited-edition
(only 2300 made) porcelain sculpture. The handcrafted sculpture illustrates
Koons’ unique blend of pop art and humor, with a metallic red balloon animal
positioned against a slivered plate. 10 1/2″ in diameter, it sold for $400
Click on the image for a close-up.
What he says about going to “the top people” is true. I saw and held
one of these dogs (not mounted on the silver plate) at the WESTECH 2000
machine tool show at the LA Convention center where companies set up booths
to tout what they can do, make, build, sell, etc. In an aisle filled with
metals finishing vendors, I saw this totally out of place, gorgeous, shiny
red balloon dog! I asked about it and the fellow running the booth handed
it to me and told me “some artist created a limited quantity of the porcelain
dogs and sent them to me for vacuum metallizing and anodizing.” The dog
itself it absolutely beautiful; shiny like a mirror, light weight (hollow
porcelain china) and perfect in every detail. I was blown
away when I saw and held it.
Jeff has made many more pieces, including a lifesized person riding
a balloon dog. Here is his working model for that 1996 sculpture,
also entitled “Balloon Dog.” Made of epoxy resin fiberglass, it measured
126 x 149 x 47 inches. Koons describes it thusly “It’s about celebration
and childhood and color and simplicity – but it’s also a Trojan horse.
It’s a Trojan horse to the whole body of artwork.”
Koons’ giant stainless steel rendition of a Mylar round balloon, “Moon,”
exhibited alongside the final version of his “Balloon Dog,” make the room
look out of scale in the photo below:
In 1997 Koons unveiled his PVC “Inflatable Balloon Flower (Yellow)”
which measured in at 51 x 59 x 70 in. Only 100 were made, and they sold
for $3,500 each.
But Koons’ biggest “balloon sculpture” so far is his “Balloon Flower,”
shown here on the sidewalk at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin: