Whoops! A Clumsy Art Fair Visitor Shattered a $42,000 Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Sculpture in Miami
An artist-collector wants to buy the broken shards, believing that its story is more interesting than the artwork.
A sculpture from Jeff Koons’s “Balloon Dog” series was knocked over, breaking into pieces at a Miami art fair last week. But the broken artwork might still commend sales value—someone says they are trying to buy it.
The limited edition, 19-inch-tall Balloon Dog (Blue) was originally on display at Bel-Air Fine Art’s booth at contemporary art fair Art Wynwood during its VIP preview day on February 16. It had a price tag of $42,000.
The iridescent porcelain sculpture was on an acrylic plinth when it was allegedly tipped over by accident during Thursday’s VIP preview event. The scene was captured by the Wynwood-based artist and collector Stephen Gamson, whose post about the event on Instagram went viral.
“As I was looking the art, I pointed to a Jeff Koons ‘balloon dog’ sculpture. This woman knocked it over. I actually witnessed the whole thing,” Gamson, who claims to be a fan of Koons, state via Instagram.
He also told Miami Herald that he saw an older woman, allegedly an art collector, tap the sculpture before seeing it fall to the ground.
“One of the most crazy things I’ve ever seen,” Gamson went on in his post. However, one user commented that her boyfriend’s grandmother was the woman that Gamson mentioned, and that she did not tap the work.
This echoed by Bel-Air Fine Art’s district manager Cédric Boero, who also said that the collector did not touch the work.
“Of course it is heartbreaking to see such an iconic piece destroyed. However, the collector never intended to break the sculpture. In fact, she never touched it with her hands,” Boero told Artnet News via email.
“It was the opening cocktail, lots of people were on our booth, she gave unintentionally a little kick in the pedestal, which was enough to cause the sculpture to fall down.”
The incident apparently attracted a crowd, as seen in Gamson’s video. “You see now that is a new art installation,” a person is heard saying.
A version of Balloon Dog (Blue) (2021) sold for €62,500 ($70,709, including fees) at a sale at Ketterer Kunst in Germany on December 10, 2021, according to the Artnet Price Database. A much larger version, Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994-2000), sold for $58.4 million at a Christie’s New York sale in November 2013.
Staff from the gallery as well as the fair venue cleaned up the scene, sweeping the debris with a broom. Whoever accidentally knocked down the work seems to be off the hook from paying for it. “This kind of thing unfortunately happens, that is why the artwork was covered by insurance,” Boero said. “The pieces of the sculpture have been packed in a box by the staff of the fair in order to be stored waiting for the insurance expert to pass by.”
However, Gamson claimed that he was trying to purchase the broken sculpture. “It has a really cool story,” wrote Gamson on Instagram.
In fact, Gamson may be in competition with other likeminded collectors who also wanted to buy the broken art piece. “Some collectors offered to buy the shards. We are still receiving offers as we speak,” Boero revealed.
One user on Instagram criticized the gallery, noting that the work should have been better secured. Another commented that the woman who was said to have broken the work “did everyone a favor.”
The shattered artwork might not have broken Koons’s heart. A similar incident happened to one of his Balloon Dog sculptures before, in 2016, when it fell and smashed at the Design Miami fair. “We’re really lucky when it’s just objects that get broken,” he told Page Six back then. “That can be replaced. It’s just a porcelain plate.”
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