Balloon Monkey (Orange), by Koons, is based on a balloon that is twisted into the shape of a monkey. Seven years in the making, the original Balloon Monkey, 2006–2013, is 12 ½ feet long and weighs nearly five tons. The monumental sculpture is made from mirror-polished stainless steel finished with transparent color coating in five unique versions: blue, magenta, orange, red and yellow.
Jeff Koons has been interested in cultural subject matter with widespread appeal throughout his career. It is, therefore, fitting that the monkey has been a recurring motif in his body of work. Among the artist’s work, his most well-known is the life-sized porcelain artwork created in 1988, Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Humankind’s close kinship with primates has captured artist’s fascination throughout history, serving as an allegorical figure for universal themes such as the pursuit of pleasure, sexuality and innocence. Balloon Monkey explores these themes, evident through the playful form juxtaposed with tumescent tail, undoubtedly a phallic reference. Koons merges these typically contradictory concepts through the reduction of the subject to its most essential form, thereby purifying otherwise conflicting sensations for the viewer to achieve the elevated state of transcendence through self-acceptance.