Alibaba Unleashes Litter of Koons Balloon Dog Knockoffs

For collectors who care more about price than pedigree, there's an option.

Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994-2000) sold at Christie's for $58.4 million last November, the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a living artist.
Jeff Koons at the opening of Split-Rocker at New York's Rockefeller Center on June 25, 2014. Photo: J Grassi, courtesy Patrick McMullan.

Jeff Koons at the opening of Split-Rocker at New York’s Rockefeller Center on June 25, 2014. Photo: J Grassi, courtesy Patrick McMullan.

When one of Jeff Koons’s massive Balloon Dog sculptures sold at Christie’s New York this past November for $58.4 million it made him the most expensive living artist anywhere.

And this summer, it seems New Yorkers can’t turn a corner—whether you’re strolling through Rockefeller Center in midtown or craning your neck up at the Freedom Tower downtown—without running smack into a Koons hybrid animal flower head or a crimson balloon knot plopped into the middle of a public foundation. There is also no shortage of subway cars, train stations, and bus stops plastered with ads for his massive, building-consuming retrospective currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

At a recent party at mass market fashion retailer H&M to celebrate the launch of the limited-edition Koons “Balloon Dog” purse  (yours for just $49.50 but already flooding eBay at prices north of $100), Koons told a reporter “I want my work to be accessible to people.

But did he mean this accessible? A Chinese company called VLA sculpture is now peddling Koons-style stainless steel puppy sculptures on China’s largest e-commerce site Alibaba. Prices for the pups range from $500 to $5,000, and the sculptures are available in three different sizes. And choice of color is also up to you, the buyer. According to the site, purchasers are limited to a maximum of 10 dogs per month. (Art F City flagged these first).


Picture of a “stainless steel sculpture of a balloon-animal dog – VSSSP-038A”

In the past Koons has had no problem calling dibs on all balloon dogs forever, having sent cease and desist letters to a San Francisco firm over their sales of balloon dogs in 2011 (which one site called an act of “megalomaniac delusion“). In this case, however, the balloon dog sculpture is being sold by an image of an install shot of Jeff Koons’s 2008 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, with an Incredible Hulk-themed painting in the background.

So how will the reigning king of the contemporary market react to this latest twist (pun intended). And do these “rogue” Rovers pose a problem for the Koons’s market if some buyers are duped into thinking they’re the real deal?

We reached out to VLA sculpture to inquire about these pups, asking whether they are clearly stamped as copies or replicas, i.e. not from the Koons factory/studio in New York. A representative from the company told artnet News via email that the sculptures do not come with a “mark to show it is replicas of Jeff Koons. But if you need, we will mark on the statue, it’s no problem.”

We also reached out to Jeff Koons’s studio to ask how the genuine sculptures are marked or labeled and whether they come with certificates of authenticity. Koons’ studio also had not responded by posting time.


Image of a 3-D printed balloon dog, by Rob Myers

Meanwhile, if you don’t have the spare change sitting around, artist Rob Myers has another solution (which we found in the AFC comments section). He has posted files to 3-D print your own balloon dog to Thingiverse, a site connected to the Brooklyn-based Makerbot Industries dedicated to spreading creative 3-D printing designs. Myers’s project is evidently a commentary on the readymade, but it looks like a few people have actually taken him up on the proposition for DIY balloon dog manufacture.

Regardless of how it plays out, we’ll be watching closely to see where there is a turf battle and which dog gets his day.

Stay tuned.

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