The Instagram that started it all.
I was riffling through the #JeffKoonsRetrospective hashtag when I saw it. This pic of a tiny little replica of the Koons Play-Doh sculpture housed in plexi, being held next to the Koons 10 foot tall aluminum sculpture ‘Play-Doh’. After a little gleeful digging, I’d found out that New York based artist, Jon Burgerman was selling these miniature boxes of mixed colored Jeff Koons doppelgangers in front of the Whitney during the Koons retrospective.
It’s brilliant – it’s not a devotion piece and it isn’t a diss. I don’t hate’ Koon’s work – but I don’t get the grand overtures and big bucks spent on his replica of things that someone else already crafted.
On Saturday, August 2, 2014, at 12 noon, outside the Whitney Museum, Burgerman set up a pop-up stall to promote and sell his ‘Small Edition’ sculptures which are actually made out of Play-Doh. Each sculpture comes housed in a clear 3x3x3” display case and is verified with a certificate of authenticity.
I just kept wondering what his hook was – the more I pondered it, the funnier it became. I could envision his sales pitch signage …”It is more real than the real thing. Instead of taking 20 years to make, it only took about 20 seconds. It’s pretty cheap too.”
So I reached out to Burgerman and suggested we conduct a fun interview, in the tone of an article I’d just read while browsing the internet for some info on Koons.
I enjoyed the way the articles opening paragraph played at being serious – perhaps we could riff off of it. The article started off this way…
“Some art just doesn’t communicate but this Jeff Koons sculpture speaks to man, woman, and child, especially child. It is, after all, child’s play, specifically Jeff Koon’s little lad who fashioned this colorful lump in 1994 and twenty years on, it reappears as Daddy’s work of art, now a ten-foot high, brightly-colored, painted aluminum sculpture. A gleaming pile that will never turn manky.”
Are you communing to folks with your Play Doh replicas?
JB: Yes, I guess I am communicating something to them. All art is trying to say something, something that is better expressed through art than other means. My Small Edition sculptures articulate a grey area between homage and satire.
Since your sculpture is the real deal, does this mean your pile of Play Doh will turn Manky? How long of a shelf life do we get on this thing?
JB: It won’t turn immediately manky as it’s housed in a little air tight cube. Play Doh stays pretty vibrant and soft as long as it’s not exposed to the air and dries out. That said if they experience direct sun light or humid conditions (Hello New York summer time) they might mank up a bit. But no more than a shark floating in a big tank of in formaldehyde. Oops.
Can you talk about your process? Feel free to be as absurd as you’d like.
JB: I got some Play Doh of various colours and made a little lump of them all mushed together. As I did this I thought about what it might be like being Jeff Koons son. Imagine all the cool stuff Jeff has laying around his home and not being allowed to play with it. At one point I punched the Play Doh and had to start again.
So the Pop Up… obviously you were out there the same time as the Koons Retrospective is going on. Did the Whitney storm out there with any complaints?
JB: Nope – they seemed pretty cool about it all, in as much as I didn’t get told off or kicked out. At one point a Chinese food delivery man pulled up alongside my little table. He had someone on his phone but he couldn’t speak to them. For some reason he thought I was in a position to chat to the person on the other line. It was an employee of the Whitney. I informed her that her lunch was waiting for her outside and I’d be happy to hold on to it for her to collect. I explained I was the guy selling knock-off Koons’ sculptures outside and she just laughed, saying I was very kind and sweet.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing Koons could be somewhere rolling around naked in that 54.8 million he got for the Balloon Dog sculpture. What’s your best buyer experience?
JB: A young lady purchased the second sculpture I sold that day. She then queued up to get into the museum and then photographed my Small Edition again Jeff Koons ‘Play Doh’. It was great that one of my little sculptures got taken inside to meet it’s big forefather.
*Thanks to Jon Burgerman for the photos & the Instagrammer that started it all @kristinmtate for that awesome photo of her sculpture next to the big daddy Koons Play-Doh Sculpture.
**Article quoted is from the Independent.IE by Niall MacMonagle.