Jeff Koons: Seated Ballerina
I feel like I have a conflicted relationship with "modern art," or "installation art." I'm sure it's unsophisticated of me to say so, but a lot of contemporary art is just totally lost on me. My eyes can't roll far enough into the back of my head when I go to MOMA and see an entire gallery filled with blank canvasses (or ones with light pencil lines, or one stroke of color, etc.) regarded as "Art" with a capital A. I realize that there is sometimes method to the madness—and I welcome people who are smarter than I am to explain to me why certain pieces are museum-worthy–but I do try to recognize and respect the completely subjective nature of what counts as "art."
When the Whitney was moving downtown a few years ago, their final exhibition housed on the UES (before the MET Breuer moved in) was a Jeff Koons retrospective. I went because I had never been to the Whitney, and it was a pay-what-you-wish night. Koons is arguably one of the most famous living artists today, but to me a lot of his work inspires multiple of those muscle-straining eye rolls.
I remember walking into one of the rooms and just seeing a stack of lawn chairs—a scene repeating itself a million times over at Wal-Marts across the country. But even as ridiculous as some of his "work" is, I can't deny the fact that I just really love his balloon animal sculptures. Sure, he didn't invent the balloon animal, and I'm sure he's so far removed from his actual work at this point in his career that everything is manufactured by minions à la the Warhol factory system, BUT I just can't hate those stupid sculptures. They're an everyday, ephemeral object, made larger and more permanent by design. They're whimsical and shiny and funny-looking and they make me smile in spite of myself.
So, when I heard that Koons had a new balloon sculpture on display in Rockefeller Center, I couldn't help but be excited about it. Seated Ballerina is just that—a 45-foot-tall seated ballerina balloon sculpture—but unlike the works that made him famous, this one is an actual balloon (tethered to a pedestal and on view until June 2nd).
According to a press release, the sculpture "is based on a small porcelain figurine and acts as a contemporary iteration of the goddess Venus," but it's also larger than it's supposed to be and just plain fun to look at. I wouldn't say that Seated Ballerina made me think deeply about National Missing Children’s Month—which Koons claims is an objective—but it did bring me more joy than an entire gallery of blank canvasses ever could.