Among the works included in Jeff Koons' Celebration series, Balloons are certainly the most famous. The artist's unmistakable iconography blends pop culture and appropriation art with the themes shaping contemporaneity, such as media, celebrity, desire and sexuality.
The Balloons by Jeff Koons, works of only apparent simplicity, have achieved record prices for the contemporary art market. In 2013, his Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at auction at Christie's for $58.4 million, the highest sum achieved by a living artist up to that time.
More recently, in 2019, it was a stainless steel rabbit created by Koons in 1986 to broke the record again. It was bought for $91.1 million by gallerist Robert Mnuchin. According to Christie's, the sculpture, created in a limited edition of three, was the last one left in private hands.
Jeff Koons Celebration series began in 1993 as an ambitious collection of more than thirty monumental sculptures and paintings. The artist's intent is to celebrate universal values through a eulogy to childhood, the colors of its celebrations, and the lightheartedness of its birthday parties.
The creation of the original Balloons, stainless steel sculptures with a transparent colored coating, required an unprecedented investment of time and money from the artist. The monumental works are more than ten feet tall and weigh several tons.
To complete his project, Koons relied on the support of friends, collectors and gallery owners. None were disappointed. His candy-colored steel creatures have visited the roof of the Met, the gardens of Versailles and the Whitney.
After the record-breaking Balloon Dog, Jeff Koons expanded Celebration's subjects to smaller, limited-edition works, making small swans, dogs, rabbits, Venuses and monkeys in collaboration with Bernandaud, a family-owned porcelain manufacturing company with more than 150 years of experience.
"I've always liked balloons because they are like us. We are balloons. If you take a breath and inhale, it's optimism. You exhale, and it's kind of a symbol of death."