Will the Shattering of a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Increase its Value?

A visitor who knocked over a Jeff Koons sculpture at a Miami art fair may have accidentally increased interest in the work.

Jeff Koons poses in gallery next to blue balloon dog atop white mantle.
Jeff Koons (right) with one of his balloon dog sculptures in 2021. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

A $42,000 Jeff Koons sculpture shattered into pieces at a Miami art fair after it was accidentally knocked over by a visitor.

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A woman attending Art Wynwood, a contemporary art fair, inadvertently bumped into one of Koons’ signature porcelain dog balloons, causing the blue sculpture to fall off its pedestal. The work was insured, meaning the fairgoer won’t be charged, as reported by the Miami Herald. Bel-Aire Fine Art, the gallery which presented the sculpture at the fair, did not respond to requests for comment.

These types of incidents are not infrequent, according to Colin Quinn, head of fine art claims at Precise Adjustments, a subsidiary of insurance company Tokio Marine Highland. Indeed, this isn’t even the first time a Jeff Koons has broken at a Miami art fair—in 2016, a magenta balloon dog fell and shattered at Design/Miami.

Accidents are far more common at art fairs than museum exhibitions, said Quinn. “The art fairs are transient with a very definite time frame to have the items set up,” he said. “With all the scurrying to set up the fair, there’s sometimes a lapse in security.”

Meanwhile, museums often know well in advance which items will be used for upcoming exhibitions, with plenty of time to plan for their safety, said Quinn. And while the congested nature of art fairs can lead to visitors accidentally breaking works, damage typically occurs during the shipping and installation of pieces. “Installation losses normally happen at the beginning of a fair, but for reasons I’ve been unable to understand, shipping losses happen afterwards,” he said.

Regardless of the nature of an art accident, high value artwork is nearly always insured. “Everyone at a fair, for the most part, has fine art insurance,” said Quinn.

In regards to the Koons sculpture, the gallery’s insurance company will either pay the value of the damaged item or try to replace it, said Quinn, adding that the odds of the visitor having to pay for any sort of damages is unlikely. “If you’re talking about an art fair where you’re inviting people out to the premises and it’s a fairly congested area, the allowance would be that it would be difficult to subjugate against them,” he said.

The work may increase in value

Even when artwork is purposely targeted by visitors with malicious intent, damages must be paid by insurance companies which can then try and sue the person responsible, according to Victor Wiener, a New York based art appraiser.

“It would be foolish for anyone to accept a consignment without some knowledge of being insured,” said Wiener. “Unless it’s a totally secure space, which isn’t 100 percent certain, every time it gets moved there’s always a danger something might happen.”

Claimants typically keep damaged art and attempt to restore it, receiving compensation for a percentage of its loss in value, he said. Sometimes, the notoriety behind an artwork’s damage can even lead to an increase in value, said Wiener, who was an expert witness in the 2006 case of a Pablo Picasso painting owned by real estate developer Steve Wynn.

At the time, Wynn had agreed to sell Picasso’s La Reve to Steve Cohen, owner of the New York Mets, for $139 million. But shortly before the sale was set to take place, Wynn reportedly put his elbow through the painting while showing it to friends. Seven years later, Cohen ended up purchasing the restored painting at an even higher price of $155 million.

It looks like something similar could happen with the broken Koons sculpture. Cedric Boreo, district manager of Bel-Aire Fine Art, said that the gallery has already received a number of requests from art collectors to purchase the broken shards, according to a statement provided to Artnet News.

“It can certainly give it a certain amount of notoriety and add to the value, or at least not detract from it,” said Wiener.

Will the Shattering of a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Increase its Value?