BALLOON animals are usually a feature at children’s parties. Unless they are by American artist Jeff Koons.
Jeff Koons is known for his art with themes on American popular culture, and he has long had a love affair with balloon animals which he interprets as sculptures. In May, his piece titled Rabbit, was sold at Christie’s in New York for $91.1 million — the most expensive work by a living artist. But you don’t need to shell out millions of dollars for one of Koon’s pieces.
Last week, luxury retailer Rustan’s launched Balloon Animals, decorative art which is a collaboration between high-end French porcelain company Bernardaud and Mr. Koons who was intrigued with the idea of using Limoges porcelain.
Launched internationally in 2017, limited edition pieces are original designs from the artist’s Celebration series which began in 1994, inspired from the artist’s childhood memories. Of the 999 chromatic-coated balloon animals in the collection, three — Balloon Swan (Magenta), Balloon Monkey (Orange), and Balloon Rabbit (Violet) — are available at Rustan’s Makati.
The Balloon Swan was one of the first ceramic sculptures Mr. Koons made. He worked for over a year and a half to achieve the correct shape for its neck.
“Balloon Swan harmonizes sexual energy. If you look at it from the front, it’s totem-like and male. If you go to the side it becomes female. Balloon Swan is reminiscent of classical works, it defines beauty as sexual harmony,” Mr. Koons was quoted as saying in a press release.
The creation of Balloon Rabbit (Violet) was inspired by holiday traditions from when the artist was growing up in Pennsylvania — households would decorate their front yard with animal figures. “At special times of the year, people would put things out in their front yard for decoration like reindeer at Christmas time. In the spring, around Easter time, there would be inflatable rabbits,” Mr. Koons said.
“I was always very struck by the generosity of the neighbors in doing that, giving pleasure to other people in that way. One of the things that I’m most proud of is making work that lets viewers not feel intimidated by art, but feel that they can emotionally participate in it through their senses and their intellect and be fully engaged,” he added.
Meanwhile, the monkey is a recurring motif in his body of work. Mr. Koons has had a fascination with human’s friendship with primates. Balloon Monkey (Orange) shows “the playful form juxtaposed with tumescent tail, undoubtedly a phallic reference.”
The prices for the three pieces start at P800,000.
Bernardaud porcelain is exclusively available in Rustan’s Makati, and soon at Rustan’s Shangri-La, and Rustan’s Cebu while supplies last. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman