Jeff Koons is a talented pop artist. One of his brilliant sculptures is a 10 m representation of a balloon dog that sits on top of the New York Metropolitan Museum. I saw the sculpture when in New York on the way to Boston for an AIPPI Conference a couple of years ago.
I am a balloonologist myself, and have made literally thousands of one balloon dog sculptures at birthday parties, children’s wards in hospitals, busking on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Precinct, as a student, in St Marco’s Square, Venice, and thanks to Lord Greville Janner, then MP, QC, and a fellow magician, in a conference room at the British Houses of Parliament.
None of my sculptures will ever be as famous as Jeff Koons’. I can, however, claim to inflate my regular sized versions made from a standard Qualatex 2 x 60 balloon, in the traditional way, by lung power, and due to also playing the trombone, can generally manage about 200 balloons in one session.
In what appears to me to be a total hutzpa, Koons has sent cease-and-desist letters to Park Life, a San Francisco gallery and store that sells the bookends, and Imm-Livinga distributor of balloon sculpture bookends. See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/arts/design/20suit.html?_r=1
Unfortunately, Park Life‘s owner, Alexander has taken the bookends off sale and removed from his website.
In this instance, I am not impressed with Peter D. Vogl, the partner of Jones Day who sent the cease-and-desist letters. We are all Intellectual Prostitutes, but some of us have standards! If the case was fought in Israel, I’d be honored to represent the bookend distributor pro bono myself.
If it will help Alexander’s cause, I am willing to sign an affidavit that his bookends are faithful copies of my sculptures, and to provide him with a non-exclusive license to continue manufacturing them. After all, the size and look are close to my models. The fee? a couple of bookends would be nice!
Apparently, lawyer Jed Wakefield of Fenwick and West LLP has now picked up the condom and asked for a declaratory judgement against Koons.
“It could bring freedom to balloon animals everywhere,” Wakefield said.