An iconic Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture was accidentally smashed by an unfortunate collector during Miami’s Art Wynwood opening. The cobalt blue porcelain work, priced at $42,000, was part of a limited collection previously including 799 editions. With Koons’ controversial status as the simultaneous villain and genius of the contemporary art market, art news over the past few days has been swarming with speak of the incident.
Does anyone outside of the small, commercially driven inner-circle of the art world care that the sculpture has been smashed? Unlikely. Do I care? Not particularly. Yet, the aftermath of the incident has enlightened some of the integral and prominent questions that define our current art sphere.
Bystanders reported initially assuming that the smash must have been part of a choreographed performance. Alas, a very embarrassed woman rapidly surrounded by panicky gallerists and security concluded otherwise. The initial assumption from bystanders, however, maybe tells us that there’s a probing ache within the white cube for something more exciting. Maybe, just maybe, it even alludes to an underlying disgruntlement with the absurdity of the price points afforded to works like Koons’.
The gallery has now reported fielding bids from collectors for the shards of the sculpture. Bizarre, at best, yet entirely telling of art may mean in the it’s age. Accident or performance – is the work now worth more money? Is it more culturally relevant? The reported interest in purchasing the work’s remains portrays the nature of contemporary art and the market that encapsulates it. It is not the sculpture, but the very moment of its demise that maintains its monetary value. It is the happening, the concept, not the object.
Had this incident happened a mere year ago, the above featured photo, having circulated on mass over the past few days, would be vetted for thousands as an NFT. Yet now the shards themselves become representative of something other than that which they were: they become the discourse, the obsession, the very depiction of falsified value. Dare I say, are we seeing the $120,000 Art Basel Banana (Comedian, 2019, Maurizio Cattelan) again in real time? Our obsession with commercial viability has driven us past the point of absurdity and straight into the hands of a new media. We are so heavily immersed in conceptualization that art has no borders and concepts themselves have monetary value.
To some the new age of art is one of excitement, of intrigue, of transgression and transience. To others, it’s simply a matter of humor, pure preposterousness, and of glaring class disparity. So, can a moment maintain monetary value? Should it?