Jeff Koons’s Newest Artwork Is a $40 Google Phone Case

If you were following Lady Gaga, Marc Jacobs, or U2 on Instagram over the past week, you may have noticed a shiny blue Jeff Koons gazing ball bouncing between their posts like a star-studded game of “hot potato.” These photos were the build-up to Koons’s latest artwork, which is unveiled today—but unlike most of his pieces, it won’t be displayed in a gallery or a museum. This work of art can only be seen on a smartphone.

  • Courtesy of Google.

    Courtesy of Google.

A Google Nexus, to be exact. (Those of us with iPhones are, sadly, out of luck.) The work, commissioned by Google, marks the first time the internet giant has partnered with a visual artist on a tech accessory. It also marks the first time Koons has experimented with video. The American artist created a series of 33 choreographed scenes from the classic 1875–76 ballet Swan Lake to be incorporated into a limited edition Google Live Case. When snapped onto a Nexus, these cases offer a set of phone backgrounds and additional content that cannot be accessed anywhere else.

Koons’s live wallpapers feature two dancers—Ashley Laracey and Troy Schumacher of the New York City Ballet—pirouetting and pliéing with his gazing ball in hand. The “Gazing Ball” series dates back to 2013, when Koons first paired these reflective blue baubles with blindingly white classical sculptures. In his show at Gagosian Gallery in New York last November, these spheres found their way into iconic paintings: da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503-1517), Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (1862-1863), Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819), and Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat (1640) among them.  

  • Photo by Victor Theilan. Courtesy of Google.

    Photo by Victor Theilan. Courtesy of Google.

Looking back on the artist’s previous comments about the series, the collaboration between Google and Koons seems especially fitting. Much like cell phones, Koons has called the gazing balls “devices of connecting” that allow viewers to consider their relationship with an artwork. And with these limited edition cases—at just 40 bucks a pop, his most affordable work to date—it appears he’s found a way for the everyday consumer to be in near-constant dialogue with the art world.


—Abigail Cain