Kris Jenner ‘Art Shamed’ Khloe Kardashian for Not Recognizing a Jeff Koons. The Irony? It’s Not Even a Jeff Koons!
A little sleuthing suggests that there's more than enough art shame to go around at the Kardashian household.
“Shame” is not a word that you particularly associate with the Kardashian clan. Yet a recent episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians has launched the term “art shaming” into the lexicon, stemming from a now-famous interchange where mom/manager Kris Jenner schools her daughter Khloe for not recognizing the Jeff Koons sculpture on her office shelf.
“Just because I am not as knowledgeable as you, you shouldn’t turn your nose up,” Khloe says plaintively. “You should be like, ‘Khloe, well Jeff Koons is…’ instead of making me feel less-than and uneducated.”
Jenner, however, will have none of it. “I’m sorry,” she rails, “it’s a Jeff Koons: K-O-O-N-S.”
Except, ahem, the sculpture on Kris’s shelf is not a Jeff Koons.
Jeff Koons sells five Balloon Dog editions. All come mounted on a mirrored plate, all are manufactured in porcelain, and all have the artist’s signature highly reflective finish. They come in five colors: blue, magenta, orange, red, and yellow.
“He’s famous for the Balloon Dog,” Jenner says in the episode, with withering self-confidence. “You need to go to, like, an art class.”
But… Koons isn’t the only maker of balloon dogs. There are literally dozens of balloon dog bookends, jewelry items, and tabletop sculptures floating around. The one on Jenner’s office shelf, with its snub nose and matte finish, appears decidedly similar to a painted resin version carried by Neiman Marcus from Toronto-based company Imm-Living (though it’s currently sold out)
A Koons edition can be bought for $9,000 from the online store of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. On its significance, the museum quotes the artist himself: “The piece has an interior life while the reflective exterior surface affirms the viewer through their reflection.”
Imm-Living’s “Big-Top Golden Balloon Dog Bookend” is $55. It’s pitch is rather less high-flown: “Bookend is shaped like a top dog—but it won’t pop or deflate!”
In fact, Koons infamously sent cease-and-desist letters in 2011, saying that these balloon dog bookends violated his copyright. The fact that they are slightly less bulbous and rendered with a matte finish was specifically mentioned by Imm-Living to argue that no person might be mislead into thinking they were buying a Koons.
Also—and here’s where the real sleuthing comes in—discerning readers may have noticed that the balloon dog on Kris Jenner’s shelf is gold. Koons does not make his balloon dog in gold.
“I’m sure his 10 ½-inch balloon dog is a lot more expensive than [the Imm-Living] bookend, so how much confusion in the relevant market would there be?” Robert W. Clarida, an intellectual property lawyer, told the New York Times back in 2011.
Koons, however, appears to have known better than anyone just how aesthetically discerning his prospective fans were—even if his attempt to stop others from making balloon dogs was essentially laughed out of court. (Or laughed away from court. Amid ridicule, Koons’s lawyers backed down.)
To be fair to Jenner, she’s not exactly a high-information consumer. “My mom has not known about art for years and years,” Khloe explained to the camera during the Keeping Up With the Kardashians episode. “She’s just learning about art. Which is great. But you can’t art shame people just because they know less than you.”
We’ll leave it there.
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