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Bad week for art world as Jeff Koons piece is smashed and imitation Happy Meal thrown away


Jeff Koons with the blue ball in Amsterdam (image taken on March 27, 2018)

We’ve all experienced the urge to reach out and touch a mesmerising or fascinating piece of art in a gallery. However, most of us manage to hold back that urge, especially when the piece of work is worth a hell of a lot of money.

For one visitor, on the final day of Jeff Koons’ exhibition at Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk, however, curiosity got the better of them. The piece on display was Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints (2015-15) which features a blue glass ball juxtaposed with a hand-painted replica of an altar work by Italian artist Pietro Perugino. The ball produces a mirroring effect, creating the feeling of “entering” the artwork. Jeff Koons stated in a recent interview: “You become part of the painting and the painting becomes part of you.” We’re not sure he meant it quite so literally… as when the unlucky visitor came too close, the ball smashed into pieces.

It’s clearly not been a good week for the art world, as meanwhile, during one of Art Basel Hong Kong’s satellite exhibitions, a replica Happy Meal met a similarly sad end. The piece in question, titled Unhappy Meal (2018) by Swiss artist Carol May, is intended to look just like the distinctive McDonald’s children’s meal.

May evidently did too much of a good job, as a cleaning crew working at the Marco Polo HongKong Hotel which hosted the Harbour Art Fair, mistook it for the real thing and threw it away. “A lot of my pieces involve very small alterations to familiar items: changes that aren’t maybe obvious at first glance,” the artist explains, adding that “initially, I didn’t find it funny at all. But later I realised it meant my imitation had been a success.”


Carol May: Unhappy Meal (2018)