Thanks to H&M, Jeff Koons's $58.4 million dog is now yours, sort of, for $49.50--in the form of wearable art. H&M's new leather handbags come printed with the balloon-dog's shiny likeness.
H&M is known for collaborating with designers, including Isabel Marant and Karl Lagerfeld, but the Koons deal marks the brand's first-ever collaboration with an artist. And who's better suited to the pop culture-loving masses than Jeff Koons? His pricey balloon dog sculpture is, in its own way, an authentic knock-off.
Similar to the way H&M’s designer collaborations turn couture into affordable fast-fashion, and lets normal people in on exorbitantly priced trends, the Koons collaboration is designed to make high art feel accessible. (It also gives the retailer cultural cachet, which sets it apart from The Gap and other competitors.)
H&M starts selling the bags on July 17, just in time for the Whitney Museum's Koons retrospective. Koons will also redecorate H&M’s Fifth Avenue flagship store--images of the yellow balloon dog will gloss the six-story facade alongside the phrase, "Fashion Loves Art."
If we don't already suspect that Koons is a better businessman than he is an artist, we do now. What better way to captivate, and make money off, all the people who didn't go to art school than to partner with the world’s second largest retailer? Koons has been famously mindful of his pop appeal and exponentially increasing audience. His highbrow-lowbrow approach was embodied most recently in his collaboration with Lady Gaga, whose ARTPOP album cover he designed. (It was described as a “reverse Warholian expedition.”)
The leather bag will sell for $49.50 at H&M--that’s about 1/1,168,000th the price of Koons's actual balloon dog sculpture, which sold at Christie’s for that record-breaking $58.4 million in 2013. So as we see it, the leather bag is a pretty good deal.