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Another sort of balloon boy lands at Marc Foxx gallery

April 22, 2011 |  9:00 am

Raised in the countryside of Flanders, Belgian artist Kris Martin grew up in hot-air balloon territory. He remembers the odd, improbably romantic sight of "this enormous thing quietly passing overhead, not even 1,000 feet high, and all the neighborhood dogs barking and cows and horses panicking just from the sight of it."

Now, the hot air balloon -- with all of its utopian associations -- has become a medium for his rather conceptual art. In the last couple of years he has placed a partially inflated hot air balloon inside the Johann Koenig gallery in Berlin and then again at the K21 museum in Dusseldorf (shown above). This week, he's doing his first U.S. version, filling the Marc Foxx gallery with a perfectly functional balloon that has been grounded for an exhibition opening on Saturday.

Ever since the Montgolfier brothers invented the hot air balloon in the late 18th-century, Martin suggests, it has represented a lyrical, untethered sort of dream. "The hot air balloon is romantic and beautiful, and it stands for freedom. It also challenges our expectations because you have no idea where it will land. So when you find it's suddenly trapped in a museum or gallery, the dream of flying is reversed -- a bit sad but also funny too."

In L.A., gallery visitors will be able to enter the balloon, which will be inflated using industrial-strength fans "with air but not hot air" according to the artist. The gallery says this example from the series is called "TYFFMF," 2011, which stands for "Thank you for flying Marc Foxx." 

Reached by telephone, Martin said he had hoped that he could come out for the opening but it doesn't look good, now that he’s back in Europe after a residency of several months in San Francisco. “Like the balloon I'm trapped here right now — it’s impossible to move, I have too much work.”

-- Jori Finkel


Around the Galleries: Jennifer Steinkamp and Kris Martin

Makiko Kudo at Marc Foxx

Photo: Kris Martin, "T.Y.F.F.S.H.," 2009, balloon and ventilators, installation view at K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; from Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf; Photographer: Achim Kukulies.