About the work




     Inflatable Balloon Flower (Yellow), 1997
146 x 189 x 185 cm
Inflatable Balloon Flower (Yellow) resembles a toy spiked with growth hormones which have caused the balloon to mutate. The gargantuan size separates it from normal toys. It is luscious and attractive but also slightly uneasy, close to bursting from sheer vitality.

As a matter of fact it seems like a fish out of water in a museum of art and better suited on the beach with other inflatables or in a smaller version as a balloon animal shaped by a man in the market.


The size of the flower and its place in an art museum accounts for its status as art. This and the symbolic value inherent in flowers afford the sculpture with associations to something naïve, natural and innocent.


However the balloon flower not only resembles a flower but also something else, less naïve and innocent. Koons obviously played around with the flower's resemblance to both an erect penis and a vagina. The size is not only amusing; it is also vulgar because of the blatant, sexual associations.


Since the late 1970s Koons has been making the series Inflatables: works based on inflatable toys. These banal and originally inexpensive products were a tremendous provocation to a conservative art market which was not ready to sell banal everyday objects.


The balloon flower is a ready-made, an everyday object that via its altered size and Koons' choice has been transformed into art. Koon selects (appropriates) objects that embody American 'bad taste:' glossy idol pictures, plastic souvenirs, cheap cartoon figurines and household appliances and uses them in his art.


His works are meticulous repetitions of the object, typically on a different scale and in another material. Often the craftsmanship of Koons' sculptures is complicated and requires the execution of professionals. In addition they are frequently created in very precious materials, a striking contrast to the banality of the subject.


The resulting pieces are controversial high culture not because of their content but rather because of the lack thereof. The inflatable sculptures are quite literally hollow, full of nothing, with shiny, seductive surfaces.


Jeff Koons' art in general
Koons' key words are desire, fascination, affect and allure. These terms decide whether he wants to work with a theme or an object. He picks the objects that characterise our everyday lives, thus enabling him to communicate with us in a straightforward manner, completely separate from modern art's usual elitist status.


Since the early 1980s Koons' art has been the subject of questions like: Is Koons himself enamoured of the many banal kitsch objects that he makes into art? Or is he making fun of them and consequently people's devotion to them? And has he adopted a deliberately provocative style with regards to both his art and his persona?


Statements like "I have nothing against the advertising industry, quite the contrary. My art and my personal life are based on the mechanisms found there" break with the art world's prevalent elitist and critical attitude towards the commercial entertainment society.


Looking at his work doubts crops up as to whether it is all one big joke or his art is a critical comment on the definition of art and on the modern consumer society. Like the American Pop art and Andy Warhol Koons wishes to discuss the relations between art and consumerism.


His point of departure is the bliss of the Western consumer society that allows for unlimited fun, extreme narcissism and a constant pursuit of glamour and fame.

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