It’s a crowdfunding campaign aimed at tearing the heart apart and saving a puppy in disrepair, but this request from the Guggenheim in Bilbao is on a different scale. The museum is asking for 100,000 euros in donations to restore the 13-meter-tall puppy by American artist Jeff Koons.
At the entrance to the museum is a flower-covered sculpture of a West Highland Terrier. Its living 38,000 plants, including petunias, impatiens, marigolds, and begonias, are replaced twice a year.
“The exterior is fantastic and has not deteriorated at all,” said Ainhoa Sanz, the museum’s director of restoration. But after 24 years outdoors, parts of the irrigation system are leaking and need to be replaced, as is part of the stainless steel construction. “We want it to be in good shape for the next 25 years,” said Sanz.
Begoña Martínez Goyenaga, the museum’s communications director, said this call was the first time they had used crowdfunding. “We chose crowdfunding because it is a work that is so iconic and loved and photographed and so representative of the city, and we want to give everyone who loves the puppy the chance to participate in the restoration of a work of art and a vertical to assist garden. “
Puppy was exhibited for the first time at Documenta 92 in Kassel. It was rebuilt on Sydney Harbor in 1995. The Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation bought it in 1997 for their new museum in Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry.
Koons said he chose the sentimental images of a puppy and flowers to convey optimism and to convey “confidence and security.”
The inside of Koons’ Puppy. Photo credit: Guggenheim Bilbao
In an interview with the Guggenheim earlier this year, Koons said, “Puppy was inspired by my visits to Europe’s baroque cathedrals and the way they achieve that balance between the symmetrical and the asymmetrical and between the eternal and the ephemeral.”
In 1997, shortly before the museum opened, three members of the Basque terrorist group Eta, disguised as gardeners, planted flower pots with grenades that they wanted to throw at King Juan Carlos at the inauguration ceremony.
The attack was foiled by Jose María Aguirre, a local police officer, who was shot while the three of them were fleeing. The square was later named in memory of Aguirre.
Two thirds of the museum’s income comes from ticket sales, shop sales or sponsorship, the rest comes from the Basque government.
The crowdfunding campaign has so far collected around a tenth of the 100,000 euro target. The restoration work is scheduled to start at the end of September and be completed by mid-November.