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Bringing Balloons to Life: Jeff Koon’s Celebration series

For most adults, balloon animals can be either a party trick or a slightly embarrassing hobby that your significant other would rather you not bring up at potluck dinners.

For prolific New York – based sculptor Jeff Koons, balloons and the childhood joy that Western culture associates with them are a subject worth bringing up. He is well-known for making artistic statements inspired by everyday objects and his Celebration series, which took over ten years to complete, is no exception. Koons explores these ideas of childhood and happiness in a mass culture by experimenting with scale, bright colors and hyperreal textures.

One need only take a gander at Balloon Dog, the most famous piece of this series, to see that Koons pulls no punches when it comes to his vision. Balloon Dog is a ten foot tall, high chromium stainless steel balloon animal dog coated in transparent color. The piece has 5 different versions, each of a different color. I find the red to be the most striking because the viewer can really see how the steel shines through the transparent color. The mirror and bright red highlight the smoothness of the steel’s texture, which makes the piece really seem like it’s constructed out of latex at first glance. Balloon Swan follows a similar line of thought: a giant, shiny steel swan that appears to be twisted out of gargantuan magenta balloons. The way it towers over the viewer is imposing, an interesting contradiction, given the subject matter and cheerful colors. It’s pretty incredible that Koons can make a sculpture of a balloon animal stately, but one could certainly argue he’s achieved that here.

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