Project 10 - Jeff Koons

One of the world’s most famous contemporary artists, Jeff Koons, created Puppy outside Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 1995 as Project 10, celebrating 25 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects. Created as a symbol of love and happiness, Puppy stood 12.4 metres high on the harbourside, carpeted in flowering blooms like a monolithic topiary. Presented as part of the 1996 Sydney Festival, Puppy became one of the most memorable projects and was viewed by more than 1.8 million people in Sydney before relocating to its permanent home outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Jeff Koons created a new iconography for late capitalist culture, fusing pop and surrealist traditions with baroque and rococo excess. Constructing his works with a studio of assistants and a team of master craftsmen, Koons assumed the role of artist as a composer or director, creating mythical new amalgams from popular consumer forms. Novelties, souvenirs, toys, erotica and imagery from postcards and advertising were recodified as icons for the contemporary world. Universally adored, animals and flowers form an important aspect of Koons’ vocabulary and these elements were combined in Puppy. The basis for the work is the small wooden sculpture of a West Highland White Terrier by Koons, White Terrier, 1991, from the Made in Heaven series – chosen for its endearing appearance, unthreatening at any scale.

The first Puppy was created outside a baroque castle in Arolsen, Germany, in 1992. The wood and steel structure contained around 20,000 growing plants. Destroyed at the close of the exhibition, a new version was created in Sydney, designed and constructed for Kaldor Public Art Projects by DW Knox & Partners. The new work was more detailed, supporting 55 tonnes of soil adorned with 60 000 cascading plants. Three-dimensional modelling and the latest computer technologies were used to conceive the enormous structure as a steel armature in 13 levels constructed offsite. This structure was then overlaid with a wire-mesh skin, carefully shaped and moulded to form the curls and folds of Puppy’s flowering fur. Onsite the work took more than a month to construct. Concrete foundations were poured in and then segments of the structure were positioned before the hydraulics were installed. Finally, soil and plants were inserted into the frame.

Inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations for Kaldor Public Art Projects, an exhibition of John Kaldor’s collection and past projects, as well as Koons’ past works, was also displayed, along with documentation of the making of Puppy.