During the VIP preview of Art Wynwood on Friday, February 17, a woman accidentally tipped over a sculpture by renowned artist Jeff Koons, shattering it. The artwork was worth an estimated $42,000, according to Bel-Air Fine Art, the gallery selling the piece.
Videos and photos of the porcelain statue of a balloon dog lying shattered on the fair floor instantly hit the internet. The incident was immediately all over the news, covered by outlets like NPR and the Guardian. Commenters took to Twitter to gleefully roast the incident as the triumph of good taste and sensibility over the whims of the rich and the absurdity of paying exorbitant sums for objectively ugly crap.
The funny thing is this is not even a particularly valuable work by Koons. There are reportedly 798 remaining works of this particular series of balloon-animal sculptures and many thousands more similar sculptures by the artist all around the world. Moreover, nobody is in trouble over the incident. The art collector who broke the statue apologized, and a spokesperson for the gallery said the work is covered by insurance.
According to Boero, some collectors have offered to buy the shards, and the gallery continues to receive offers for the damaged piece.
In 2016, a similar incident occurred at Design Miami when another balloon animal sculpture fell and shattered. When asked about the accident by Page Six, Koons brushed it off: "It’s a shame when anything like that happens but, you know, it’s just a porcelain plate. We’re really lucky when it’s just objects that get broken, when there’s little accidents like that, because that can be replaced."
Koons currently holds the record for most expensive artwork by a living artist, which he earned when his 1986 sculpture Rabbit, another of his balloon animals, sold for $91 million at Christie's in 2019. This really points us to what we should be asking: Why would someone pay that much for a single piece of art, especially one that could be reproduced ad nauseam by the artist, who, by the way, does not even produce any of his artworks by himself?
Whatever one's opinion of it may be, the incident emphasizes at least that Koons has a sense of humor.