Whatshisname’s POPek

Imagine this scene: Eastern Poland, 1982. A baby boy was born, his given name being Sebastian, though he will end up preferring Seb. And by the age of 7, Seb had created his first piece of digital art by using an Atari 130 XE, starting him on an artistic journey that eventually led to England in 2006. Having relocated specifically to London, Seb worked for several years as an assistant to well-established British artists, eventually striking out on his own under his chosen alias, Whatshisname. And this Whatshisname guise might be familiar to you, as several of his designs over the years have garnered attention online. But the one we’ll be focusing on is POPek, the squatting balloon dog with his disturbingly cute balloon turd.

A Brief History of POPek

POPek first appeared in mid-2016 as a 120-centimeter tall fiberglass sculpture, with only an edition of 10 being made at this nearly 4-foot height. But Whatshisname quickly followed this up with a smaller, 12-centimeter tall rendition. Cast in polyurethane resin, these four-and-three-quarter inch statues were first coated in red as an edition of 200 and then, in January of 2017, in black as an edition of 100.
But, in the meantime, Whatshisname had been working with Mighty Jaxx to realize the POPek in vinyl, like the version we’ll be examining. Standing 20-centimeters (or roughly 8-inches) tall, the vinyl cast versions debuted at the very beginning of 2017 with a limited red rendition, which quickly sold out, followed online by a 200 piece black edition in June. But, in May of this year, those who attended either Korea’s Art Toy Culture, the Thailand Toy Expo, or New York’s Five Points Fest had a very limited pink edition available to them.

My Impressions of POPek

In talking about POPek itself, I think the parody aspect relating to Jeff Koons’ massive Balloon Dog (1994) stainless steel sculpture is fairly obvious, even with the mirror-polished finish replaced with high gloss. But, what might not be as well known, is how this piece likewise harkens back to some of Whatshisname’s earlier works, ones beginning in 2012.
Good Boy and Good Puppy were interior design art pieces, their functional lamp toppers controlled by the on/off switch within the turd behind them. And while these were more realistic canine renditions, inspired by the Front design collective’s Animal Thing series from 2006, the scatological jest at the heart of POPek was already present in them as well as the stand-alone Small Puppy piece.
Now while these previous iterations of the concept had a cute quirkiness to them, it is POPek’s irreverent reverence to Koons’ iconic pop art that truly makes this a memorable statement piece on its own. And I do love how the vinyl is soft enough to squeeze slightly as well as how the high gloss finish smartly accentuates this form, the solid color upon it granted hot streaks of white from lights and darker areas from shadows.
In fact, my only real complaint is regarding the balloon turd, which lacks a knot on its stem. Of course, Whatshisname realized this oversight himself, correcting it with his most recent sized rendition of POPek, the 50-centimeter tall version.
POPek is the first design in Whatshisname’s Balloon Dog series, with the second one — PEEpek — having recently debuted in vinyl, also from Mighty Jaxx. In fact, a third design has been teased already as well.

Editions of POPek [show]

For more information on Whatshisname:
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