Artist Jeff Koons is most renowned for his oversized Balloon Dog, a structure made of stainless steel that looks like a mylar balloon. With Seated Ballerina, now at Rockefeller Center, Koons’ takes the exact opposite approach: an inflated balloon that looks like metal. The monumental sculpture is 45 feet tall and is part of the artist’s Antiquity series. It is Koons’ only second inflatable for a public space in the history of his career, following a 2007 silver inflatable for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade entitled Rabbit.
As described by Rockefeller Center, Seated Ballerina, “acts as a contemporary iteration of the goddess Venus, and symbolizes notions of beauty and connectivity. Its reflective surface mirrors its immediate environment and engages with each viewer.” Koons has had two other exhibitions in this same space at Rockefeller Center, Split Rocker in 2014 and Puppy in 2000, which were presented by the Public Art Fund. The formal evolution of Seated Ballerina follows a similar pattern to Koons’ repeated interrogation of other shapes – and is the third version he has made. The others, are far smaller at a foot and a half and seven feet tall, reports artnet. The figure, the website reports, “is inspired by a turn-of-the-century porcelain ballerina figurine found in a Russian factory.”
This work is a collaboration with Art Production Fund and the beauty brand Kiehl’s and is a benefit for the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a cause close to Koons. He tells Vanity Fair that he too “was a a left-behind parent, and you really don’t know where to turn,” referring to his ex-wife’s abduction of their son. For the rest of this month, Kiehl’s will sell a limited-edition Jeff Koons Tin of products where the Seated Ballerina’s face can be found and donate proceeds up to $100,000 to the organization.
Speaking about the formal nature of Seated Ballerina, Koons also tells Vanity Fair, “The piece has gradations. As porcelains, the way they are painted, they gradate in the flesh from darker to warmer, from hands to the arm, and this helps to communicate time. Any type of gradation is related to sunrise and sunset, and, like the sky, it gradates. It’s another way to bring metaphysics to a piece, and the ballerina has this reflective surface, and I think the piece communicates a sense of optimism and a future for people.”
Though the material may seem fragile, the Jeff Koons team is confident they have prepared for most possible scenarios. In case of inclement weather, Rockefeller Center has stated that it will deflate the sculpture for safety reasons. Seated Ballerina will be at Rockefeller Center until June 2nd.
Next, check out 13 other art installations not to miss in NYC this month.