Sunday, June 22, 2008

How much would YOU pay?

What is this, you ask? Or maybe you already had an answer in your head (it's not that, you sicko!) We went to NYC yesterday, to take in a bunch of photography shows, including a huge retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a.k.a. The Met, for my West coast friends). We were not expecting the bonus treat, however, of seeing more of Jeff Koons' crazy metal "balloon dog" sculptures on the rooftoop garden.

I say "more" because these wacky things seem to be following us around the world, or vice versa. Question: how many 15-foot-tall metallic fruity-colored balloon sculptures have you seen lately? Well, we've somehow stumbled across three such installations in the past year-and-a-half.

We'd never heard of nor seen these things until last year, when we were cruising down the Grand Canal in Venice, innocently enough, and then THIS thing smacked us in the face. So surreal, to see this hot pink carnival-looking thing, set outside a staid Venitian palazzo. It really made an impact (this photo hangs in my office now, in fact). Bonus points for public installations of contemporary art!

So I did a little research when we got home (I know, shocking!) and it turns out that these puppies (ha! punny!) go for . . . wait for it . . . OVER $20 MILLION! Wow. They are cool and all but seriously, that is quite a chunk of change. Now that these balloon things were on our radar, we made sure to catch the "balloon flower" in Berlin this year. Not nearly as cool as the Venice dog, I have to say.

So who is Jeff Koons? Surely someone who commands such huge sums for his work, and whose name is familiar to so many, must be long-dead, right? Nope. Turns out that Mr. $23.5 Million Silly Flower is only in his 50s. Not only that, but he actually used to be married to that Porn-Star-Turned-Member-of-the-Italian-Parliament, back in the 1990s, so he obviously pulls chicks. Seriously, I want to party with this guy.

Now, they are substantial pieces of work. And they must take a lot to produce- much more costly materials than oil paints and canvas, to be sure, but it turns out that Mr. Koons might not exactly be sitting in his studio polishing these things himself- he actually oversees a studio that employs 30 technicians who actually produce these works. I am not saying he's not the "real" artist here, I'm just raising the point that maybe our local girl 4-year-old artist, Marla, shouldn't have gotten such a hard time for (possibly) getting some coaching or direction on her painting from her dad. But I digress . . .

Mr. Goofy Dog is also the artist behind that uber-famous living-flower-covered piece called "Puppy" that graced the opening of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain in 1997. This guy really gets around!

We also stopped in to the Neue Galerie, near The Met, to catch the last few days of the Gustav Klimt exhibit. You might recall that this Klimt painting, of a Jewish Austrian businessman's wife, was seized by the Nazis in 1938, sold at auction in 1942 to a Viennese gallery, then reclaimed by the heirs in 2006 and sold at auction in Los Angeles for . . . $135 million! I used to think that was a lot of money for a piece of art, but now I see that it would only get me a cool-looking heart, a doggie, and maybe some flowers like these. I guess it's time to recalibrate the mental assessment of what "a lot of money" is, eh?

Here are some more photos of the rooftop Koons balloon dog at The Met, just cuz they are so cool-looking (and FREE!):

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