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Crystal Bridges Buys Jeff Koons Hanging Heart Sculpture

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on Thursday announced that it had bought a sculpture by the sometimes controversial Jeff Koons, one of the world’s most famous living artists. The piece, the 3,000-pound Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta), was installed at the Bentonville museum on Tuesday, “just in time for Valentine’s Day,” the museum said.

The museum didn’t reveal a purchase price, but an almost identical piece, Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), sold in 2007 for a reported $23.6 million.

Koons’ work is a kind of pop art in which he takes kitsch, sentimental objects — inflatable balloon animals, for example — and reproduces them in monumental sizes. Among his most famous sculptures are Michael Jackson and Bubbles, a porcelain sculpture of the late entertainer and a pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, and Puppy, a 43-foot-tall sculpture of a terrier made out of stainless steel and flowering plants.

In an auction in November at Christie’s, Koon’s Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million, which, according to The New York Times, made it “the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction.”

His work tends to sharply divide art critics as well as the public, some of whom are not convinced of its value as art. Koons also is known as a highly capable self-promoter.

“Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta) is a massive, high chromium mirror-polished stainless steel heart sculpture, which is one of five unique versions created by Koons, each with a different transparent color coating,” the museum said in a statement. “It is the only one, however, that was retained by the artist until sold directly to Crystal Bridges in 2013. The Hanging Heart sculptures are part of the series titled Celebration, which began in 1994, and were meant to embody the various celebratory events of a lifetime.”

“Hanging Heart, ultimately, is a symbol of warmth, humanity, spirituality, and romance,” the museum quoted Koons as saying. “I’m thrilled to have this major piece in a location in the U.S. where the sculpture will interact with the public. It offers an opportunity for many people to view the work in a space that has a sense of not only romantic but also spiritual transcendence.”

“Koons has been a monumental figure in art of the last 25 years,” said Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi. “Many think of him as the heir to the Warhol legacy, advancing the tradition of Pop Art in taking everyday imagery into a much different realm. We’re pleased to be able to share this sculpture with our guests.”

Engineers had to create a special system to install the sculpture, which hangs from the ceiling of the museum building housing its restaurant, Eleven.

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