Jeff Koons as Laocoön: Balloon Dogs and Trojan Horses

As his latest Balloon Dog (this time of the orange variety) goes under the hammer at Christie’s tonight, it is worth noting that, when given the chance, its creator, Jeff Koons, has consistently described this particular work of his as a ‘Trojan Horse’.

From the current Christie’s sale:

 “It’s a very optimistic piece, it’s a balloon that a clown would maybe twist for you at a birthday party. But at the same time it’s a Trojan horse.”

To the yellow version, on view at the Cantor Roof Garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in 2008:

“Balloon Dog (Yellow)” is a sly Trojan Horse: it seems innocent but is loaded with aesthetic and erotic perversity

 Then all the way back to a 1997 interview:

“It’s about celebration and childhood and color and simplicity – but it’s also a Trojan horse.It’s a Trojan horse to the whole body of artwork.”

The late, great Arthur C. Danto in his essay ‘Banality and Celebration: The Art of Jeff Koons’ (2004) dubs Balloon Dog as Koons’ ‘masterpiece’, with the original Trojan version – ‘one of Odysseus’ wily ideas’ – as a remarkable parallel. However, the repeated warnings of Koons as to the duplicity of his ‘gift’ makes him sound less its creator, an Odysseus, and more like its potential or intended recipient, a Trojan, and specifically, Laocoön. (And we all know what happened to him!)

So, for anyone out there thinking about bidding on Balloon Dog (Orange) tonight, here’s a warning for you, straight from the horse’s mouth. And this warning comes neither from some wily Odysseus, nor from a scheming Sinon, but from Laocoön himself. Jeff Koons, may not be an ancient priest of Apollo, but at least he can now claim to be a contemporary ‘prophet’ (or Diogenes?) of the Art World. Cave Canem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *