The balloon dog sculptures made famous by Jeff Koons so closely imitate their twisted latex inspiration that some observers might think they would be better set in a circus than an art gallery.
But the fragility of these seemingly buoyant sculptures was made clear last week when visitors at an art fair in Miami saw a bright blue porcelain dog worth $US42,000 ($61,000) fall and shatter into pieces.
A Koons “Balloon Dog” sculpture like the one made of porcelain that was smashed in Miami.
The sculpture, which was about 40 centimetres tall and 58 centimetres long, was perched on a transparent pedestal at Art Wynwood, an art fair in downtown Miami where more than 50 galleries from the United States and abroad are showcasing works.
During the art fair’s VIP preview night on Thursday, art collectors and other aficionados were milling around when a woman knocked over the Koons sculpture, causing it to shatter into at least 100 pieces.
“Before I knew it, they were picking up the Jeff Koons pieces in a dustpan with a broom,” said Stephen Gamson, an art collector and artist who said in an interview Saturday that he saw the sculpture fall.
Gamson said that he was about to point the sculpture out to the group he was with when he saw an unidentified woman tap the sculpture with her finger, knocking it from its pedestal in a booth managed by Bel-Air Fine Art, which has galleries in the United States and Europe.
At first, Gamson said, he thought that the fall could be part of a staged performance piece, but then he noticed that the woman was blushing and art fair staff members were rushing over.
Suddenly, the shards of porcelain had a bigger audience than the hundreds of intact paintings and sculptures that surrounded them. The Miami Herald reported on the crash Friday. Wynwood Art could not be immediately reached.
The scene was “kind of like a car accident on the highway, where people start looking and then there’s traffic and then it becomes this big thing,” Gamson said.
As an art collector, he spotted an opportunity and asked a woman working at the gallery if she was willing to sell him the broken pieces. He said she was still mulling the offer.
A less fragile 3 metre version of the Koons dog sits on the roof of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.Credit:Librado Romero/The New York Times
There are thousands of Koons’ balloon dog sculptures across the world in shades of orange, red, magenta, yellow and blue.
Some of these dog sculptures tower above 3 metres tall, while others stand at a mere 25 centimetres. A giant inflatable nylon version of the sculpture decorated the stage for several Jay-Z concerts in 2017.
Koons did not respond to requests for comment. Last year, he said that his next major project involved sending mini-sculptures to the moon.
Gallerists and museum curators must strike a balance between making works accessible and protecting them from a well-meaning, but perhaps absent-minded, public. In recent years, observers of historical relics and sculptures have damaged an 800-year-old coffin, a sculptural wall clock and an illuminated pumpkin.
Cédric Boero is the district manager for France and business development at Bel-Air Fine Art galleries, which was presenting the sculpture. He was managing their booth at the art fair when he heard a loud noise and saw that the sculpture had crashed to the floor.
“Life just stopped for 15 minutes with everyone around, like security,” he said on Saturday.
Boero said that in the aftermath of the fall, while he was speaking with fair organisers, one of his colleagues spoke to the woman who knocked over the sculpture. “She said, ‘I’m very, very sorry,’ and she just wanted to disappear,” he said.
The shards of the sculpture are now stored in a box, waiting for an insurance company to review them, said Boero, who had a diplomatic outlook on the incident.
He noted, with a laugh, that the number of these blue balloon dog sculptures had now shrunk to 798, from 799, increasing their rarity and therefore value. “That’s a good thing for the collectors,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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