STANDING some 43 feet tall – or rather sitting – and made from stainless steel, soil, geotextile fabric, an internal irrigation system and over 17,000 flowering plants, Jeff Koons’ topiary sculpture/installation has to be the largest piece of West Highland White Terrier artwork that is ever likely to be created.
Critics are sharply divided in their views of Pennsylvania born Koons, some view his work as pioneering and of major art-historical importance, others dismiss it as kitsch.
Certainly his work, such as the Westie installation and balloon animals is original and unique and has the movers and shakers in the contemporary art world clambering for it. Christie’s, London in their post-war and contemporary art sale on June 30, 2008 achieved a world record auction price for a work by a living artist when they sold his 12 feet tall high chromium stainless steel with transparent colour coating ‘Balloon Flower (Magenta)’ for £12,921,250.
Koons’ Westie ‘puppy’ was commissioned in 1992 for an art exhibition in Bad Arolsen, Germany. It was dismantled and taken to Sydney for exhibition in 1995-1996 at the Museum of Contemporary Art on the Harbour. In ‘97 it was bought by the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation and taken to Bilbao in Spain as a permanent installation outside the Guggenheim Museum.
In 2000 it travelled to New York for a temporary exhibition at the Rockefeller Center. Nowadays its place is permanently at the front of the Guggenheim where it acts as a ‘guard dog’ to the museum.
Before its dedication at the museum in Bilbao, three members of the Basque Separatist Movement, ETA, disguised as gardeners attempted to plant explosive-filled flowerpots near the installation but were foiled by a Basque police officer who then was shot dead by one of the ETA members.
Industrialist, businessman, entrepreneur, media mogul and major art collector, Peter Brant, has an exact Jeff Koons duplicate of the Bilbao installation in the grounds of his estate in Connecticut.
Continuing the flower theme, in ‘98 an edition of 3,000 glazed porcelain puppy vases was released to the same design as the installation, a great opportunity for Westie lovers and admirers of Koons’ work. Standing some 17 inches high, each vase was signed and numbered by the artist. In April 2011 Sotheby’s sold one for $17,000.
In their modern and contemporary fine and decorative arts sale on December 3, Stair Auctioneers and Appraisers of Hudson, New York are selling number 122 with expectation of $8,000-12,000. The Westie is lot 411 and the catalogue can be viewed at www.stairgalleries.com.