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Celebrating Heart

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In the subjective world of art, no one truly knows whether artists' pieces will become critical darlings or will get consistently panned. For those who do produce works that are highly praised and prized, however, the recognition and compensation can be immense. For instance, earlier this year one successful bidder spent $19.3 million when purchasing Damien Hirst's Lullaby Spring. Now in the record books as the highest price for a piece of art sold by a living artist at auction, there is a chance that monetary benchmark will be surpassed in the coming weeks.

On November 14, during Sotheby's New York's sale of contemporary art, bidders will have the opportunity to purchase Jeff Koons's Hanging Heart (Magenta and Gold), arguably one of his most important works. It is estimated that the piece will sell for $15 million to $20 million. And if it sells for $20 million or more, Hanging Heart will make history.

Jeff Koons, who attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute College of Art, is an American artist whose work many classify as neo- or post-pop. Some of his most well-known pieces include Three Ball 50/50 Tank (1985), consisting of "three basketballs floating in water, which half-fills a glass tank," a 43-foot topiary in the shape of a West Highland white terrier, and a gold-plated, ceramic, life-size sculpture of Michael Jackson with his beloved chimpanzee, Bubbles.

After receiving critical acclaim for his early work — and stirring up controversy for a later series, Made in Heaven, which depicted him and his then-wife in sexual positions — Koons nearly vanished from the art world. During the following eight years he became embattled in a bitter divorce and custody war. When he finally returned to the public eye, he did so with the revered series Celebration, of which Hanging Heart is a part. The series follows four themes that are linked directly to life's milestones. In addition to Hanging Heart, primary pieces include Cracked Egg and Balloon Dog.

As Koons explained at the time, "My son was abducted and taken to Italy — that was a horrible experience. For a while, life was like a dog chasing its tail for me, and it was only through my art that I was able to hold on and maintain a sense of humanity."

He added, "In the Celebration series, I wanted to make work that would show my son when he was older and could understand that I loved him and was thinking about him."

Hanging Heart is made of chromium stainless steel and weighs more than 3,500 pounds. Nearly nine feet tall, it took more than 6,000 man hours and 10 years to complete. The piece is one of five uniquely colored versions and is coated with more than 10 layers of paint. Hung only 16 inches from the ground, the piece is situated in a position that serves to "draw the eye to the curvature of its powerful and immense center."

Discussing the piece, Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art, said, "Hanging Heart is a stainless steel monument from a body of work so rare, so surreal, and so beautiful that one almost ceases to believe it exists. Executing this work required extraordinary precision, finesse, and lavish attention to achieve such perfection of the highest order. Koons is an artist who doesn't allow compromise, and Hanging Heart is all about making an impossibility possible."

And if a piece of art can make the impossible possible, a price of $20 million is a bargain.

On the net:Jeff Koons


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