'Ello, 'ello, what's going on ear then?

At first glance it might look like a particularly tasteless advert for Playboy, but the giant inflatable rabbit which spent yesterday floating above bemused shoppers and tourists in central London is in fact a work of art.

The helium-filled artwork was created by one of the world's most bankable artists, Jeff Koons, and was making its UK debut. The 52ft-high balloon is to be displayed in Covent Garden market until Sunday, to tie in with the Tate Modern exhibition Pop Life: Art In A Material World, which opened last week.

Koons, who is best known for his kitsch sculptures and a series of pornographic images of him and his former wife – the adult film star Ilona Staller – based the balloon on one of his earlier artworks, a 3ft-high stainless steel sculpture called Rabbit 1986.

The balloon was made in 2007 for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The original, and a film of the parade, features in the Tate Modern exhibition, which continues until 17 January.

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