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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.

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.

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.