Bernardaud Collaborates With Jeff Koons For A Limited Collection Of Porcelain Figures
One of the most important living artists today, Jeff Koons has built a reputation for blurring the lines between mass culture and high art, creating some of the most recognisable artworks on the planet. Since the ‘80s, he’s been capturing the art world’s imagination by transforming kitsch and banal everyday items into works that communicate universal themes of consumerism, acceptance, and humanity.
His gigantic balloon animal sculptures, which date back to 1994, are some of the artist’s most iconic works. Made of stainless steel and transparent colour coatings, the first balloon animals were borne out a desire to create a piece that “reflected the joy of celebrating a birthday or a party,” Koons once told auction house Christie’s back in 2013, when his Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for US$58.4 million—then the highest price paid for art by any living artist.
(The record has since been broken by British artist David Hockney in November 2018, when his pop art painting Portrait of an Artist [Pool with Two Figures] sold for US90.3 million; before being broken again by Koons himself in May 2019, when his Rabbit sculpture sold for over US$91 million.)
SIZED DOWN MONUMENTS
The original versions of Koons’ balloon animal sculptures were monumental, standing over three to four metres high. The artist’s recent collaboration with the French fine porcelain brand Bernardaud allows art lovers to bring sized-down versions of the sculptures home, each standing just 25 to 29 centimetres tall.
In this limited-edition collection, Koons’ Balloon Swan (Magenta), Balloon Rabbit (Violet), and Balloon Monkey (Orange) is available for purchase from Bernardaud, with a limited edition worldwide of 999 pieces of each artwork. Intrigued by Limoges porcelain, Koons and Bernardaud worked tirelessly to ensure that no detail of Koons’ art would be compromised in rendering his balloon animals in porcelain, from their reflective surfaces to the intricate knots and twists.
This isn’t Koons’ first partnership with Bernardaud. Back in 2013, he collaborated with the brand to come up with his Banality collection for Bernardaud’s 150th anniversary. “I was always intrigued by porcelain, by both the economic and the sexual aspect of the material,” said Koons in 2013. “Porcelain shrinks in the oven; therefore, there is a tightness to the material. Porcelain was the emperor’s material but today it has been democratised and everybody can enjoy porcelain.”
BEHIND THE BALLOONS
The swan’s figure is particularly significant for the artist, as it was one of the first sculptures he made as a child in ceramic. While making Balloon Swan, Koons spent over a year and a half shaping the animal’s graceful neck. “Balloon Swan harmonises sexual energy,” says Koons. “If you look at it from the front, it’s totem-like and male. If you go to the side it becomes female. Balloon Swan is reminiscent of classical works, it defines beauty as sexual harmony.”
Similarly, the Balloon Rabbit was inspired from the inflatable Easter decorations that would appear in the front yards of his childhood neighbourhood. “I was always very struck by the generosity of the neighbours in doing that, giving pleasure to other people in that way,” he says.The rabbit motif has appeared in his work as early as 1979, with his Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny) and later in 1986 with his famous stainless steel Rabbit.
Meanwhile, the Balloon Monkey is a reflection of the artist’s fascination with man’s close kinship with primates. With this motif, he explores themes of sexuality, innocence, and pleasure—his most well-known work with the element being his 1988 life-size sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles. The Balloon Monkey’s innocent form is juxtaposed with the phallic tail, prompting viewers to see the harmony between what initially seems like contradictory concepts and arrive at self-acceptance.
Koons and Bernardaud worked tirelessly to ensure that no detail of Koons' art would be compromised in rendering his balloon animals in porcelain
AIR AND ART
Koons frequently explores the element of air in his art, and has worked with inflatables since he was a new artist in New York. “The reason that I enjoy things that involve air is they’re a symbol of us,” he explained. “We’re breathing machines, we’re inflatables.”
The artist compares the act of inhaling as a symbol of optimism and hope for the future, and exhaling as a symbol of death. By creating sculptures of balloon animals from stainless steel, he has created something that is “eternally optimistic.”
With their reflective surfaces, Koons’ balloon animal sculptures were designed to celebrate whatever environment they’re placed in. They’ve been mounted in the Grand Canal in Venice, the Versailles in Paris, the roof of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and more, interacting with their surroundings in each venue.
“It’s a little bit like a Trojan horse,” he said. “When you think about a balloon, you think about its interior as being really empty. It’s a void. But the Balloon Dog has this interior aspect, being able to parallel life’s energy—it’s having a dialogue with interior life and exterior life.”
In the Philippines, Bernardaud is exclusively distributed by Rustan’s
This article was originally published in Philippine Tatler Homes Vol 23. To bring you all the latest interior trends and practical advice for styling your home, subscribe to Philippine Tatler Homes through here.