At Christie’s Tuesday night, Balloon Dog (Orange) by Jeff Koons — an American artist known for brightly colored reflective sculptures that resemble balloons — was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $58.4 million, surpassing initial $55 million estimates to become “the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction,” according to the New York Times.
(WATCH: 10 Questions for Jeff Koons)
The stainless steel sculpture with transparent color coating is one of the first balloon dogs, which look like the kind of souvenir clowns make at birthday parties. Other pups have been on display around the world in red, green, and blue — not to mention a shiny pink one made it to Versailles in 2008.
Stephen Colbert probably summed up the meaning of Koons’s balloon animals best in an interview with the artist on The Colbert Report last year. “A lot of them are shiny, you know,” Colbert observed, “so when I look at them I can see me, and then I’m really interested in it.” Koons agreed, arguing “art happens inside the viewer… and the art is your sense of your own potential as a person.” These reflective balloon sculptures “just trigger that information in you.”
On a more somber note, Koons added, “I’ve always enjoyed balloon animals because they’re like us. We’re balloons. You take a breath and you inhale, it’s an optimism. You exhale, and it’s kind of a symbol of death.” (And somewhere, a clown just cried…)
Below is a glimpse at other noteworthy balloon sculptures by Koons in recent years: