Cy Twombly – Bacchus, Eiserner Vorhang (Iron Curtain) 2010-11, Vienna State Opera, Vienna, Austria
Safety Curtain is an on-going exhibition series taking place in the Vienna State Opera, Austria. The exhibition transforms the safety curtain into a temporary show for contemporary artists every year. The Vienna Opera has been hosting art shows since 1869 and tries to find new and interesting ways to address viewers as well as attract new audiences. However, it is also well known for being a world-class destination for global opera lovers as well as Renaissance Revival architecture.
For now 20 seasons, the Vienna Opera’s safety curtain has included art that has been specifically made for the opera house. The Safety curtain has featured a list of impressive artists such as John Baldessari, Cy Twombly, Tacita Dean, Matthew Barney, Jeff Koons, David Hockney, and Franz West just to mention a few of the famous names.
Gimhongsok – Canine Construction, 2009, 164x231x90cm
This Canine Construction by South Korean artist, Gimhongsok is one that anyone would fall in love with, coupled with the enigmatic quality it has. This work is the sculpture of a dog remains one of the artist’s most well-known works in recent times. The creation involved using garbage bags, balloons, cardboard boxes, all assembled with expensive materials like resin.
Jeff Koons – Balloon Dog (Orange), executed in 1994-2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 307 x 363 x 114cm, one of five unique versions (Blue, Magenta, Orange, Red, Yellow)
Sold at Christie’s in 2013 for US$ 58,405,000
Jeff Koon’s professional life
When it comes to the critique of Jeff Koons’ work, there are often two schools of thought. On one side, there’s a small group of naysayers that think that his artworks are crass and more of marketing gimmicks than art. On the other hand, most critics and sharp minds in the art scene consider him as a pioneer of the neo-pop art movement. In his defense, Koons has asserted that there’s “no hidden meaning” in his works. Nonetheless, no one can dispute the fact that Jeff Koons is one of the most important contemporary artists of our time.
While he made his debut in the art arena with “The New” series at the onset of the 1980s, it wasn’t until 1986 that he sprang into the limelight. Together with colleagues Ashley Bickerton, Peter Halley, and Meyer Vaisman, Jeff Koons made major headlines (including the front page of New York Times) when they jumped from International With Monument gallery to Sonnabend Gallery. In 1988, Koons cashed on his fame by unveiling his much-acclaimed Banality series. And that’s when his career really took off.
In the past three decades or so, Jeff Koons has unveiled one gem of an artwork after another. His well-known work, Michael Jackson and the Bubbles1 – a banal sculpture based on the king of pop and his famous chimpanzee, has been very popular and equally controversial. But that’s what he’s known for: a “knack for genre-bending.”
Controversial or not, his works have been immensely successful. In fact, he sold one of his much-acclaimed works – the Balloon Dog (Orange) – at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York for a whopping $58.4 million. This blew beyond the estimated value of $55 million to set the world record auction price for an artwork by an existing artist. Previously, Jeff Koons had sold another artwork for $33.7 million2. That’s no small feat for an artist known for using banal and pop-related objects.
The Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons is a work of art that is about celebration for different purposes and times; A simple artwork which in its elegance would evoke a cheery scream from children if showcased at a children’s party. The Balloon Dog sculpture is made from very simple materials – stainless steel and covered in different colors: blue, magenta, orange, red and yellow. There was nothing left out of the creation even though it stands ten feet and weighs a ton. The artwork looks like a balloon twisted to shape to form a dog.
The Balloon Dog was a part of Jeff Koon’s well-known Celebration series from the early 1990s. It has been exhibited all around the world and these sculptures have been sold at huge amounts of money at different auctions. Koons said he only wanted to create a piece that showed the joys of having a celebration when he created the sculpture. As much as his own ideals were different, his work, the Balloon Dog has gone on to make him the creator of the most expensive artwork sold at auction by a living artist. Each edition of the series has sold for a different price at different times but the one that sold at the highest amount of money remains the Balloon Dog (Orange) which sold for $58,405,000 in November 20133, the highest ever paid for a piece of art by a living artist at auction anywhere in the world.
The Balloon Dog (Orange) has a very beautiful color on a giant swollen body that has a reflective surface. This sculpture depicts weightlessness despite its huge size and heavy weight of one ton. The balloon form was made while paying utmost attention to precise details. There is a knot which serves as the nose, the twists and crimps that show the limbs are well placed and the dog’s tail which is erect and yet looks like rubber. The artist is known for making use of exact standards in his work and the Balloon Dog (Orange) is not an exception. This faultless and flawless creation is admired and loved by the audience. As much work was put into this work of art, the result is an extraordinarily beautiful sculpture which is pleasing to the eyes and makes it an enjoyable sight to behold.
Awards and Recognition
Controversial, effusive, and captivating, Jeff Koons’ artworks have not gone unnoticed. He has received a multitude of honors, accolades, and awards in recognition for his contribution to the world of contemporary art. In 2000, he was awarded the BZ Cultural Award from the City of Berlin, and a year later received the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture. In 2002, he was designated a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor before being elevated to Officier five years later (2007). In 2008, he received the Wollaston Award from the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Medal of Arts from the US State Department in 2013. Lastly but not least, Jeff Koons received the annual Honorary Membership Award for Outstanding Contribution to Visual Culture from the Edgar Wind Society, the University of Oxford in 2017.
Balloon Dog (Orange)
Jeff Koons – Balloon Dog (Orange), executed in 1994-2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 307 x 363 x 114cm, one of five unique versions (Blue, Magenta, Orange, Red, Yellow), Christie’s, NYC, USA
Sold at Christie’s in 2013 for US$ 58,405,000
Jeff Koons – Balloon Dog (Orange), executed in 1994-2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 307 x 363 x 114cm, one of five unique versions (Blue, Magenta, Orange, Red, Yellow), The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Photo: Tom Powel Imaging
Jeff Koons – Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988
Ceramic, 106.7 x 179.1 x 82.5 cm
Jeff Koon’s biography – Early Life
Jeff Koons is unquestionably one of the most established Neo-Pop artists, an increasingly famous clique of artists who draw their inspiration from pop culture, entertainment media and pop artists. Born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, Jeff got his feet wet in the world of art at a tender age of 8, when he started creating copies of old-master paintings. What’s even more interesting is that he managed to sell a few of them at an antique store that belonged to his father.