9 Things You Could Buy For The Price Of A Koons

Kimye’s engagement ring, the world’s most expensive (non-balloon) dog, fancy cars, and more–or, one measly chunk of stainless steel art.


A retrospective of the American artist Jeff Koons opened at the Whitney Museum recently, and all anyone can talk about is how damn expensive his work is. The exhibit is the priciest the Whitney has ever devoted to a single artist. As most press coverage of the exhibit reminds us, Koons set a world record for most expensive artwork ever sold at auction by a living artist–in November, his Orange Balloon Dog sold at Christie’s for a painfully whopping $58.4 million.

Jeff Koons, Orange Balloon Dog

So we figured we’d put the numbers in perspective. When we talk about expensive artwork, what exactly do we mean? How does the cost of a single Koons compare to that of other objects common people consider obscenely pricey? Here, nine insanely expensive things–many of which, like Koons’s balloon dog, set “most expensive” records at auction–that you could buy all together for $58.4 million, the price of one Koons balloon dog sculpture.

One of the most expensive tiaras to ever sell at auction, once owned by a literal princess, Katharina Henckel von Donnersmarck, made of emeralds and diamonds. Does Balloon Dog look pretty and sparkly when you put it on your head? Not so much. $12.3 million

The most expensive watch ever sold at auction: The Henry Graves “supercomplication,” by Patek Philippe–billed by its creators as the most complicated watch ever made–sold for $11 million at Sotheby’s in December 1999. $11 million

This 30,000-square-foot vacation home on a private island in Thailand is far, far away from the corporate American art world. $10 million

“b]L’lle aux Orties[/b], a 1897 oil painting by Monet (is it pronounced “money?”), sold for a modest $8.1 million at Christie’s in New York City in November 2013. $8.1 Million


Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring, designed by Lorraine Schwartz, with a 15-carat, emerald-cut diamond, set Kanye back a pretty penny. Estimated at $5 million.

One of 2014’s most expensive cars was the Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, only nine copies of which are being made this year. It uses far more material than Koons’s soulless insult to both balloons and canines. $4.5 million.

The world’s most expensive shoes, Harry Winston’s Ruby Slippers, are covered in 4,600 rubies. This pair of slippers was made in 1989 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz–and they’re even shinier than the Balloon Dog! $3 million.

The Fantasy Bra, from Victoria’s Secret, is encrusted in 5,200 precious stones, including amethysts, sapphires, rubies, and white, pink and yellow diamonds arranged in floral patterns. $2.5 million

One of the world’s most expensive non-balloon dogs: a Tibetan Mastiff puppy sold for $2 million at a “luxury pet fair” in Hangzhou, China, this past March. Tibetan Mastiffs are mythologized to have lion’s blood! Something balloon dogs surely lack. Unlike stainless steel, they’re also supremely cuddly. $2 million

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.