Balloon Dog (Red)
Written by Fred H. Langbein, Docent
Take a close look at this artwork. What does the figure depict? Have you seen such a figure before? Where?
Everyone who has been to a birthday party will quickly recognize the figure of a dog made from inflated and twisted balloons. This sculpture is constructed on top of a plate or disk and made of porcelain. The artist, Jeff Koons, is known for his prolific body of sculptures that celebrate the iconography of popular culture. While Koons denies any “meaning” of his work, art historian Marilyn Stokstad speculates the Koons’s post-modern works critique (or maybe admire?) the superficial, consumption-driven, and largely suburban culture of the 1980s and 1990s.
Koons was initially compared to the early-20th century French artist, Marcel Duchamp, who “deified” everyday objects by presenting them without alteration and commentary as “art.” Like Duchamp, Koons does not attempt to alter his machine-made objects, which are executed from Koons’s plans in a “factory” of technicians. Koons frequently uses porcelain, a material common to the “knickknacks,” including decorated plates, that emerged in the mid-20th century as household decoration for the expanding middle class.
The Balloon Dog (Red), which is one of Koons’s most celebrated figures, was executed in 1995 and is numbered 568 in an edition of 2300. Koons also executes his figures in massive dimensions, such as his Balloon Rabbit and Ballerina. Koons’s commercial success as the “most lucrative” living artist is attributed to his understanding of consumer dynamics and his skill as a marketer, rather than his individual technique.
Jeff Koons, born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, studied fine art at the Art Institute of Chicago before coming New York City. He found employment at the Museum of Modern Art where he worked at the reception desk selling memberships. During his tenure at MoMA, he is credited with setting records at membership sales through his “performances” in various costumes. He then worked as a commodities trader for five years before pursuing his art on a full-time basis. Jeff Koons admired Andy Warhol and followed his style of Pop art. His work has also been compared to Keith Haring, a contemporary in post-modern, representational art.
Do you think the object is “art”? Why or why not? What is the artist saying to the viewer through this item? What questions would you like to ask the artist?