Objet d’Art: A Way of Seeing

Every month, Interview picks an artist- or designer-created object that straddles the line between aesthetics and function. Subdued tastes need not apply.

Despite their space-age sheen, the polished, round orbs known as gazing balls actually date back to 13th-century Venice, Italy, where it became popular to install them in gardens as decoration. Gazing balls have come in and gone out of style over the centuries, but nothing compares to their most recent resurgence: crafted in a synthetic bright blue, as a favorite motif of the artist Jeff Koons. It’s thanks to him that the gazing ball has made its way from in between Lady Gaga’s legs on her ARTPOP cover in 2013, to physically affixed at the center of a fake Mona Lisa, among other masterpieces, in a show at New York’s Gagosian Gallery last fall.

Never one to shy away from extra publicity, Koons recently debuted a collaboration with Google’s Nexus smartphone featuring his “Gazing Ball” on a limited edition “Live Case”—a Nexus innovation that combines case designs with interactive wallpaper. Three versions depict different Koons sculptures from a 2013 series in which he affixed the “Gazing Ball” to imitations of classical sculptures. Each image is laid out so the “Gazing Ball” hovers on the fingertip sensor.

For the live wallpaper element, Koons directed a short film in which two New York City Ballet dancers perform short choreographies inspired by Swan Lake, but the “Gazing Ball,” passed back and forth between them, takes center stage. Users tap the pair to begin the show. “The performance celebrates the concrete with the ethereal,” says Koons.”Through this collaboration, I can share my ideas of this moment in various mediums from photography to words and sound.”


Objet d’Art runs every month. For more, click here