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An artist hopes to buy the shattered Jeff Koons balloon dog


Imagine a nightmare set in an art gallery, only it's real.

STEPHEN GAMSON: I was pointing to this Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture and showing my friend. And just as I said that, the piece fell over, and it shattered into a thousand pieces.


That is artist and collector Stephen Gamson describing what happened last week when someone bumped into the pedestal and the sculpture toppled at Art Wynwood in Miami.

SHAPIRO: It's chrome blue and looked like the kind of dog a clown might make from a balloon at a kid's birthday party but made of porcelain.

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GAMSON: More people were crowding around, and it just seemed almost like a - like, kind of like how a car accident draws a big crowd.

KELLY: After another porcelain balloon dog was smashed to bits in 2016, Koons told Page Six it was not a big deal. He said, quote, "it's a shame when anything like that happens, but, you know, it's just a porcelain plate."

SHAPIRO: Well, this dog-shaped plate attracted a lot of attention. As gallery crews came by with dust pans and boxes, Gamson started filming the aftermath on Instagram.


GAMSON: If you want to sell the tail...

KELLY: That is Gamson asking gallery workers if he could buy a piece. Intact, the balloon dog sculpture is worth $42,000. No word on the price of pieces.

SHAPIRO: Gamson says he's been collecting art since he was 17.

GAMSON: I used to write letters to Keith Haring, and I became a pretty significant Keith Haring collector. I also have gone dumpster diving for art, you know, places where I know famous artists have worked. And I don't do that so much anymore, but (laughter)...

SHAPIRO: Gamson says he doesn't really have a plan for the pieces if he acquires them.

GAMSON: I was thinking I might put them in a - in some sort of a plexi (ph) box with a plaque on them. They could be introduced into a piece of art that I create myself. There's a lot of options.

KELLY: A pile of bright blue porcelain shards, just the latest spin on that age-old question - is it art? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.