Jeff Koons on Shattered Sculpture: “Not the End of the World”

Could the pup have benefited from better handling?

A Jeff Koons x Bernardaud balloon dog similar to this one was damaged at Design Miami/ over the weekend. Photo courtesy Bernardaud, ©Jeff Koons.

Perhaps it’s inevitable at an art week as massive as the one that just wrapped up in Miami—anchored by Art Basel in Miami Beach and surrounded by more than two dozen satellite fairs—that some art might get damaged in the process of moving and installation.

Such was the case with a miniature Jeff Koons balloon dog on a plate—a collaboration with French manufacturer Bernardaud that was featured in their booth at Design Miami—that fell out of its display and shattered on the floor, marking a “truly smashing opening day for the global forum for design,” as artnet News reported last week.

By all accounts, the artist—who is one of the top selling living artists in the world—is quite sanguine about the whole thing, basically telling both the New York Post’s Page Six, and Vanity Fair that the destroyed dog is no big deal.

“It’s a shame when anything like that happens but, you know, it’s just a porcelain plate,” Koons told Page Six at the unveiling of his new work Seated Ballerina at the new Oceana Bal Harbour complex. He added: “We’re really lucky when it’s just objects that get broken, when there’s little accidents like that, because that can be replaced. It’s a numbered plate, and we’ll just replace it.”

Vanity Fair points out that the value of the plate, $9,000, is just a fraction of what Koons’s large scale stainless steel sculptures have sold for at auction. The highest auction price ever achieved for a work by Koons was $58.4 million for Balloon Dog (Orange), that sold at Christie’s New York in November 2013.

To date, more than eight Koons artworks have sold for more than $20 million a piece.

Vanity Fair caught up with Koons at the New York Public Library’s dinner where he reiterated the point, telling the magazine: “Things like that happen in large situations, in installing for art fairs. It’s not the end of the world. All these things are very relevant and you never like to see anything go to waste, but that can be re-created. Worse things happen. That’s quite mild.”


Still, we couldn’t help wondering if the damage to the petite pup could have been prevented if someone had paid more attentions to Bernardaud’s precise instructions for handling one of these porcelain plates.

As artnet News reported in summer 2015, the plates come with some very specific instructions that seemed to indicate one should absolutely not plan to serve food on them. Plus, they also imposed a strict limit on buyers at the time: only one per customer!

Further making life easier for future owners, the instructions came in both French and English. According to the release we received:

Handling instructions for Balloon Dog (Yellow):

1. Due to the delicate metallic luster of the piece, do not handle the piece with your bare hands and use latex gloves as to not create any marks.

2. Only the back and rim of the piece can be touched with gloves hands. Fingerprints can be removed from the surface with water and a soft cotton cloth. Do not use any detergent.

3. Display (or store) the Balloon Dog (Yellow) out of direct sunlight.

4. Bernardaud or your retailer will not be responsible for any damage or mishandling on the Balloon Dog (Yellow) after it has been sold.

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