Working with seductive commercial materials (such as the high-chromium stainless steel of his unique large-scale Balloon Dogs, or his vinyl inflatables), Koons turns banal objects into icons of high art. Famous for creating large Balloon Dogs in Blue, Magenta, Red, Orange, and Yellow, Koons produces sculpture that seems to defy gravity and appear weightless. His “Orange Balloon Dog” sold at Christie’s in November 2013 for a record high of $58.4 million, becoming the most expensive work of art by a living artist ever sold at auction.
In 1995, Balloon Dog (Red) became the first of Jeff Koons’ iconic Balloon Dogs to be produced as a small-scale work, commercially viable in a way that his monumental works could have been. Now ubiquitous in pop culture, Koons’ Balloon Dogs have become no less than famous, each iteration serving as a tongue-in-cheek signifier of artistic fame and monetary success. Koons first began to create large-scale Balloon Dogs as part of his “Celebration” series, for which he borrowed imagery from the quintessential American childhood—in this case, the work of a birthday party clown—with the aim of recreating rare moments of innocence and fun. Balloon Dog (Red) was editioned beginning in 1995; blue versions were editioned beginning in 2002, while yellow and magenta editions, significantly smaller in size, were not in production until 2015 and 2016, respectively. The red and blue iterations were published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, while magenta and yellow were published by the porcelain manufacturer Bernardaud in Limoges, France. The edition is comprised of 2300 plus 50 Artist Proofs. As part of the earliest edition, this Balloon Dog (Red) is among the most desirable examples of Koons’ attainable works. As the artist notes:
“Balloon Dog is a very optimistic piece, it’s a balloon that a clown would have maybe twist for you at a birthday party. But at the same time there’s the profoundness of an archaic sculpture. The piece has an interior life while the reflective exterior surface affirms the viewer through their reflection. The porcelain only accentuates the sexuality of the piece. For Balloon Dog (Yellow), it’s been a pleasure working with Bernardaud, who proudly work with only the finest materials, innovative processes, and artisan talent. Their experience in porcelain dates back 150 years. Since the creation of Balloon Dog (Red) and Balloon Dog (Blue), The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, has been involved in the distribution of the editions so I’m pleased to partner with MOCA to be supportive of their endeavors.”
Private Collection, New York