Jeff Koons Brings “Balloon Dog (Blue)” to Portable Porcelain Size


Porcelain work is nothing new for artist Jeff Koons, who notably created his Banality series at the end of the 1980s in translucent ceramic material.

According to Koons ‘account, the attraction to porcelain was sparked by an ashtray in his grandparents’ TV room that he remembers seeing when he was about four years old. The object was in the form of a woman lying on a sofa. “Her legs were up and she had a little fan,” Koons says. “The heat of the cigarette and the smoke were supposed to move those porcelain legs. I was so captivated by it when I was a kid.

When he created Michael Jackson and Bubbles, the pink panther, and Love, and other work in the Banality series that the Tate Museum in the UK describes as “a celebration of popular culture and the mundane,” Koons used ceramics, porcelain, and painted wood.

“I was referring to these types of knickknacks, these objects that we have and that we grew up with that can give us tremendous joy and insight into the things we love, the pleasures we have with the world,” says Koons. There is also little difference in meaning for him, he says, between his grandparents’ little ashtray and a revered sculpture like that of Michelangelo. David. Both can trigger stimulation in the world, he argues. “This is art. ”

Porcelain was on the artist’s mind as he spoke last month about his work at Bernardaud on Park Avenue in New York City, a boutique owned by the family porcelain business in Limoges, France, which was filled with sparkling limited editions in the colors of the rainbow. sculptures of Koons’ work, and a table set with plates from the Banality series.

The piece presented was a limited edition sparkling porcelain from Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994-2000, originally a 10-foot-tall mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture that is on display at the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Koons collaborated with Michel Bernardaud, whose family has run the eponymous porcelain company in Limoges for 160 years, to create 799 15 ¾ inch high sculptures. Balloon Dog (Blue) porcelain.

The carvings are extremely bright and exactly proportioned to the dimensions of Koons’ towering steel version of the Childish Creation. They are shaped like a clown might make one from a single balloon, with the attached end serving as a nose. Each took three to four weeks to make with up to 45 people involved in the production process.

Koons was inspired to make the porcelain editions because he saw the quality of his original Balloon dog the works deteriorate into copies which have multiplied. The iconic steel dogs were also created in red, magenta, orange, and yellow.

“The proportions, angles, ears wouldn’t even be related – it would describe something different from what my original intention was,” he says. “I wanted to make a civil servant Balloon dog it was a work of myself, a work of art, and that it represents all the concerns, details, proportions, angles, whatever the original Balloon dog Stainless steel [has]. “

The big difference is the scale: Porcelain dogs are over seven times smaller, a size that Koons said was difficult. “But it’s on a scale that I believe communicates the intentions of the bigger one,” he says.

Michel Bernardaud who runs Bernardaud in Limoges, France.

Jean-Baptiste Millot

One of those intentions is about biology and how the things humans make are taken from human physiology, like nozzles on balloons that look like navels. “The work really symbolizes that it’s something deep, that comes from our human history, and not just our physiological history, but our community cultural history,” says Koons.

Another motivation was to create a more accessible and transportable sculpture in numbers that could exist more widely in the world and in people’s homes. Although it is still expensive (priced at US $ 36,000 each at Bernardaud), it is “not the price of stainless steel dogs”. Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange), for example, sold for $ 58.4 million at Christie’s in November 2013, a world auction record for the artist at the time that was surpassed in May 2019 with the sale of Koons’ Rabbit, 1986, also at Christie’s.

Although porcelain Balloon Dog (Blue) the sculptures are on a smaller scale, Koons aimed not only to reproduce the details, color and proportions of the original, but also the reflective quality that allows the viewer of the work to see it.

“It’s about the opportunity to communicate to the viewer that it is about them, to celebrate them and to show them respect,” he says. “It’s about taking care of them, not the object.”

Fulfilling the porcelain artist’s vision was a familiar task for Bernardaud, but not an easy one. Koons has been working with Bernardaud for almost 10 years since they created a “works on anything” Acrobats plaque to raise funds for the nonprofit artistic production fund.

Since then, the porcelain company has crafted plates, sculptures, and vases, all to Koons’ exacting standards. This involved changing the formula of the clay used, the number and cycle of fires, and for Balloon Dog (Blue), develop a treatment to create the surface similar to stainless steel. It had to be “absolutely perfect,” says Bernaudaud.

Porcelain maker recalls in detail how he brought examples of Koons Rabbit works in the artist’s studio that they’d only been working on for two years for Koons to tell them were a millimeter too big. (And he was right).

Koons’ large-scale work is currently on display at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, until the end of January, and Qatar Museums in Doha (which will exhibit Balloon Dog (Orange)), until the end of March. In January, Pace, who began representing the artist this year, will present Koons Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), 2013-2019, which, according to the gallery, is one of his greatest works of the antiquity series. The work is presented publicly for the first time.

The artist, who has long relied on digital technology to design his designs and even uses CT scans to understand all of the objective “niceties of a ball” – inside and out – also says that ‘it will “create at some point in the future” a non-fungible token.

NFTs, for Koons, are simply a new medium for art to be expressed, but art itself, he says, “comes from an ancient source.” If he creates an NFT, the artist intends to bring “something to a dialogue”, he says. “What I would like to do is do something that makes sense.”


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