Balloon Flower (Blue) is a distinctly Koonsian creation, a monumental paean to pleasures of all kinds - sentimental, playful, erotic - which mingles both irony and pure earnestness in equal measure. Based on the type of a balloon toy that would be concocted by a clown or performer to entertain children, Koons transforms this humble source into an immense sculpture that is both formally sophisticated and technically dazzling in its construction. Towering over the viewer, it captivates one's gaze, which is impelled to move ceaselessly across the rhythmically undulating curves of its impossibly glossy metallic surface. Indeed, the polished blue surface captures one's own reflection, so that the viewer and the surrounding environment become an integral part of the work itself. Perpetually inflated and seemingly buoyant thanks to its stainless steel incarnation, the balloon seems to transcend any limitations of time and gravity-as well as taste, in its almost miraculous transformation of a lowly toy into an aesthetically sophisticated sculptural entity. The effect is nothing short of sublime.
This sculpture belongs to Koons's renowned Celebration series begun in the 1990s, comprised of paintings and sculptures dedicated to the trappings of holidays, birthdays and other special occasions, which Koons rendered in glitzy and colorful ways, suggesting a perpetual cycle of happiness and optimism. He was inspired to focus on such subject matter following the birth of his son Ludwig. The innocent, joyous imagery of the Celebration series became especially important to him when he was separated from his son, for he used it as a way to express his love and convey that he was thinking of him. Balloon Flower, for Koons, specifically commemorates the springtime when blossoms begin to grow, and the optimism that accompanies that moment of the year. Alongside other large-scale sculptures in the Celebration series, such as the hanging hearts, diamonds, and balloon dogs, Balloon Flower is distinguished as arguably the most abstract of the entire series. One of five unique colors in this series, the blue Balloon Flower echoes both the common blue shade of balloons, but also the spiritual and ethereal dimensions of the color blue that artists such as Yves Klein famously evoked in their work. Images of flowers have played an especially important role in Koons's work over the course of his career.
As Koons has stated, "I have always enjoyed flowers. Since taking art lessons as a child, I have had flowers in my work. I always like the sense that a flower just displays itself. The viewer always finds grace in a flower. Flowers are a symbol that life goes forward" (M. Codognato & E. Geuna, Jeff Koons, 2003, p. 157).
In his choice to focus on colorful decorative blooms, with their seemingly vacuous or frivolous connotations, Koons in effect offered a riposte to the expectations that art must be difficult or unyielding. Embracing what could be seen as their vulgarity and referencing a man-made version of the natural form of the flower, Koons employs such subject matter to raise questions about consumerism and desire (in a sense updating of some of Andy Warhol's Pop strategies).
Koons's Balloon Flower is, in particular, marked by its openness, both formal and conceptual, its giddy embrace of high and low and simple pleasures. In a sense, his overblown balloon toy allows the viewer to re-experience a childlike sense of awe and wonder. The glossy shine of the sculpture operates in a way by appealing to the most regressive, instinctive, even infantile impulse of pleasure, allows us to indulge in a purely sensory satisfaction. An overtly erotic charge is also at the heart of Koons's unabashedly sensuous Balloon Flower. Its petals form an orifice-like fulcrum from which an erect shape protrudes - although whether it is a pistil or stamen, the floral equivalent of a male or female sexual element, remains tantalizingly ambiguous. Moreover, the sculpture's curving, swollen forms suggest a sexually aroused and inviting body. For the artist, however, eroticism also has a spiritual dimension, as he sees it as a primal life force. As he declared,"Sexuality is the principal object of art. It's about the preservation of the species. Procreation is a priority. But this also has a spiritual aspect for me. It's about the way that we have children" (H. Bellet, "Jeff Koons: La Sexualité, c'est l'objet principal de l'art", Le Monde, 30 August 2005). Yet the highly polished surface of Balloon Flower also conveys a certain fetishistic exuberance. The excessiveness of the polishing demanded to achieve such surface perfection and gleam suggests an obsessive kind of passion, which might even tempt the viewer to caress the surface of the work. Moreover, the mirrored surface, with its ever-shifting reflections, offering a spectacle that can be seen but never fully possessed, also offers a meditation upon the never-ending nature of the trajectory of desire itself. Koons thus encapsulates in the sensuous and ebullient curves of Balloon Flower multifarious notions of aesthetic, sensory and sentimental pleasure.
Balloon Flower (Blue) is one of the major highlights of the Daimler Art Collection, and has been prominently displayed in Berlin's world famous Potsdamer Platz. Its monumental glistening curves, with their idiosyncatic reflections of the surrounding cityscape, have made it a notable landmark of contemporary art in the city.
The Daimler Art Collection, established over 30 years ago by Daimler-Benz, manufacturer of luxury cars including the Mercedes-Benz, comprises almost 1,800 modern and contemporary works by more than 600 international artists, ranging from Andy Warhol to Nam June Paik to Walter de Maria and Mark di Suvero. The collection has long established international exhibition and education program. A selection of the highlights has been on display in museums across Europe, Asia, North and South America, where it has attracted over 500,000 students for it's education program. Proceeds from the sale of Balloon Flower (Blue) will be used to develop Daimler Art Collection's commitment to art and securing its' long term future.
Jeff Koons (b. 1955)
Please note the correct provenance for the present lot:
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
Property from the Daimler Art Collection
Jeff Koons , 20th Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, United States of America, Contemporary
Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, Daimler Art Collection, 1999-2010 (on extended view)
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
133¼ x 112¼ x 102 3/8 in. (340 x 285 x 260 cm.)
T. Goodeve, "Euphoric Enthusiasm," Parkett, no. 50-51, 1997, p. 94 (illustrated as a work in progress).
Inket, "Schillernde Riesenblume for den Postdamer Platz," Berliner Morgenpost, 12 February 2000, p. 42 (Blue illustrated in color). C. Wedenburg, "Ufgeblasne Luftballon-Kunst aus politiertem Stahl: Jeff Koons' Balloon Flower am Postdamer Platz," Berliner Morgenpost, vol. 12, February 2000, p. 19 (Blue illustrated in color).
"Interview with Jeff Koons," Art, April 2000, pp. 78-79 (Blue illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons/Andy Warhol: Flowers, exh. cat., New York, November-December 2002, p. 47 (Magenta illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, 2003, pp. 88-89 (Magenta illustrated in color).
C.Vogel, "Gagosian Adds to London Space," New York Times, 12 December 2003 (illustrated).
R. Rosenblum, "Grounds for Reflection," House and Garden, January 2006, pp. 106-107, (Magenta illustrated in color).
D. Dunlap, "Luster of World Trade Center has Tattered Reminder of 9/11," New York Times, 24 May 2006 (Red illustrated).
J. Miller, "Just the Beginning," Metro, 24 May 2006, (Red illustrated in color on the cover).
C. Kaplan, "Koons & McCartney [interview]," Monopol, no. 3, June/July 2006, pp. 80-88 (Blue illustrated).
H. W. Holzwarth, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2007 (pp. 9, 33, 424-425 (Red, Blue, and Magenta illustrated in color) and 2009 (pp. 9, 33, and 412-413 Red, Blue and Magenta illustrated in color).
Fast Forward: Contemporary Collection for the Dallas Museum of Art, exh. cat., Dallas, 2007, pp. 262-263 (Magenta illustrated).
Celebration - Jeff Koons, exh. cat., Berlin, 2008, pp. 29, 34, 132 and 166 (Magenta illustrated in color).
Jeff Koons Versailles, exh. cat., Château de Versailles, October 2009, pp. 25, 26-28, 29, 132 and 166 (Yellow illustrated in color).
R. Weihager, Blitzen-Benz Bang, Daimler Art Collection, Ostfildern, 2009, pp. 316-317, 329 and 331 (illustrated in color; also illustrated on the back cover).
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner