“I want every twist in that balloon sculpture to be authentic—not a simulation or an idea of a twist, but an actual twist—so that I can maintain that kind of suspension of disbelief.”
—Jeff Koons




A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), dated from 2013 to 2019.

Jeff Koons

Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red),

2013–2019
[Red version completed May 2020]
Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating
105 1/16 x 48 13/16 x 41 3/16 inches
266.9 x 124.1 x 104.7 cm

Inquire about works by Jeff Koons

The figure of Venus, goddess of love and fertility, has long influenced Koons’s work, appearing directly since the late 1970s. Part of his Antiquity series, which he began in 2008, the artist’s interpretation of the Venus of Lespugue—a small statuette from the Paleolithic era—engages a variety of art historical reference points, from Botticelli and Titian to Duchamp and Brancusi, and, more generally, notions of beauty and form throughout time. Through an intensive, yearslong process, Koons has transposed the fetishized original, renowned for its exaggerated curves, into a towering balloon sculpture of Giacometti-esque proportions.

A graphic header featuring a work by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), dated 2013-2019
A GIF featuring sketches of Jeff Koons’s s Balloon Venus Lespugue (January 2013)

Drawings by Koons of Balloon Venus Lespugue, January 2013

Drawings by Koons of Balloon Venus Lespugue, January 2013

Images of the design of the balloon as worked on by Jeff Koons over the period of one year, dated 2013-14

Images of balloon designs the artist worked on over the period of one year.
Koons develops and refines the design with the aid of a professional balloon twister.

Images of balloon designs the artist worked on over the period of one year.
Koons develops and refines the design with the aid of a professional balloon twister.




“Settling, for Koons, is never an option. Corners cannot be cut. Though his standards continue to escalate, this dedication to perfection has been present from the very beginning of his career.”
—Scott Rothkopf, chief curator, Whitney Museum of American Art




Jeff Koons, balloon shapes for Balloon Venus Lespugue, dated 2014

Out of approximately 100 balloons, only nine are chosen to be scanned and used as base models.

Out of approximately 100 balloons, only nine are chosen to be scanned and used as base models.

Over the period of one year, Koons refines the balloon design, with the aid of a professional balloon twister working from the artist’s sketches and comments on dozens of rounds of test balloons. The most successful shapes are then CT scanned as the base models for the Balloon Venus Lespugue.

CT scan process for the balloon model of Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, dated 2013-2019

Each balloon is CT scanned to capture the exterior form and precise internal structure.
Here, a balloon model for Balloon Venus Lespugue, 2013–2019, is being scanned.

Each balloon is CT scanned to capture the exterior form and precise internal structure.
Here, a balloon model for Balloon Venus Lespugue, 2013–2019, is being scanned.

CT scan process for the balloon model of Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, dated 2013-2019

Each balloon is CT scanned to capture the exterior form and precise internal structure.
Here, a balloon model for Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, 2013–2019, is being scanned.

Each balloon is CT scanned to capture the exterior form and precise internal structure.
Here, a balloon model for Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, 2013–2019, is being scanned.

CT scan showing interior structure of Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels by Jeff Koons, dated 2013-2019

CT scan showing the interior structure of Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, 2013–2019

CT scan showing the interior structure of Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, 2013–2019

From those base models, the work is digitally sculpted by Koons and 3-D engineers: proportions are adjusted, curves made fluid, twists and knots linked internally. Then it is ready for metal fabrication, with the artist on-site overseeing the process.

Renderings for Jeff Koons's Balloon Venus Lespugue, dated 2014-2017

Over the course of four years, Koons carefully adjusts each element in a digital rendering program.

Over the course of four years, Koons carefully adjusts each element in a digital rendering program.

Jeff Koons's works, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), 2013-2019 and Aphrodite, 2016-Present at fabricator in Germany.

Balloon Venus Lespugue parts during the fabrication process in Germany

Balloon Venus Lespugue parts during the fabrication process in Germany

“So much time and attention is given to internal areas of the sculpture that only a person who really makes the effort to look would be able to experience. But for me, it’s the knowledge that I’ve thought and cared about that experience for the viewer.”
—Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), 2013-2019 and Aphrodite, 2016-Present at fabricator in Germany.

Balloon Venus Lespugue, 2013–2019, and Aphrodite, 2016–present, at the fabricator prior to being painted

Balloon Venus Lespugue, 2013–2019, and Aphrodite, 2016–present, at the fabricator prior to being painted

Jeff Koons, color approval process for Venus of Lespugue, dated 2020

The sculpture is subjected to a rigorous color approval process at the fabricator.

The sculpture is subjected to a rigorous color approval process at the fabricator.

“I started working on Balloon Venus Lespugue in 2013, and Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red) has just been completed in 2020. The online Studio presentation is the first time the work has ever been shown to the public. Through its reflection, the sculpture will always be changing and interacting with its environment, whether in an interior space or outdoors. It represents a historic image of an object approximately 25,000 years old—yet, at the same time, is always in the moment.”
—Jeff Koons




“The art is never in the technology. The art comes from a much more profound place within us, a very ancient place.”
—Jeff Koons




A graphic header featuring a work by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), dated 2013-2019

“Jeff Koons thinks and works like no other artist. At first, this may seem a trivial statement, for it is obvious that no two artists think or work exactly alike. What I refer to here is the means by which Koons conceives a work as having a relationship to specific sources in art history and, at the same time, to the entire repertoire of visual images that cross his path—before or, for that matter (and this is an important point), even after he has made a work of art.”
—Francis Naumann, art historian and Duchamp scholar

From left: Venus of Lespugue, Collection of the Museum of Man in Paris, Venus of Lespugue (Model of Original), Venus of Lespugue, Collection of the Museum of Man in Paris

Left and Right: Vénus de Lespugue. Mammoth ivory. Upper Paleolithic, c. 23000 BC. Musée de l'Homme, Paris Photo © JC Domenech / MNHN, Paris.
Center: Vénus of Lespugue, Model of Original.

Left and Right: Vénus de Lespugue. Mammoth ivory. Upper Paleolithic, c. 23000 BC. Musée de l'Homme, Paris Photo © JC Domenech / MNHN, Paris.
Center: Vénus of Lespugue, Model of Original.

In its geometric form, the artist’s interpretation of the Venus of Lespugue statuette—which dates back twenty-four to twenty-six thousand years and was discovered in a Pyrenean cave in 1922—draws associations to modernist sculpture, thus invoking long-standing debates about the beginnings of abstraction in art.

Venus of Willendorf , Collection of Natural History Museum Vienna

Venus of Willendorf. Limestone. Stone Age, Aurignacien, 28000–25000 BC.
Photo © Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

Venus of Willendorf. Limestone. Stone Age, Aurignacien, 28000–25000 BC.
Photo © Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

A sculpture by Constantin Brancusi, titled Mademoiselle Pogany II, dated 1920

Constantin Brancusi, Mademoiselle Pogany II, 1920
Albright-Knox Art Gallery / Art Resource, NY. © ARS, NY

Constantin Brancusi, Mademoiselle Pogany II, 1920
Albright-Knox Art Gallery / Art Resource, NY. © ARS, NY

By interpreting the already abstracted Venus figure as a large-scale balloon sculpture, Koons heightens the play between abstraction and figuration, both clarifying and obscuring her form. “I look at it and I think of Brancusi,” says Koons. “I can tie it to the history of modernism.”

A sculpture by Elie Nadelman, titled Woman Dressing Another Woman's Hair, dated ca. 1930

Elie Nadelman, Untitled (two women, one fixing another’s hair), n.d. (1930–1935)
© Estate of Elie Nadelman

Elie Nadelman, Untitled (two women, one fixing another’s hair), n.d. (1930–1935)
© Estate of Elie Nadelman

A sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, titled Woman of Venice V, dated 1956

Alberto Giacometti, Woman of Venice V, 1956
Collection Fondation Giacometti, Paris © Succession Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris et ADAGP, Paris)

Alberto Giacometti, Woman of Venice V, 1956
Collection Fondation Giacometti, Paris © Succession Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris et ADAGP, Paris)

A sculpture by Elie Nadelman, titled Standing Female Nude, dated c. 1909

Elie Nadelman, Standing Female Nude, c. 1909
Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

Elie Nadelman, Standing Female Nude, c. 1909
Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

A painting by Marcel Duchamp, titled Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, dated 1912

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912
The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY. © ARS, NY

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912
The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY. © ARS, NY

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Jeff Koons Gazing Ball (Crouching Venus), dated 2013

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Crouching Venus), 2013

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Crouching Venus), 2013

A painting by Titian, titled Venus of Urbino, dated 1534

Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538. Collection of Uffizi Gallery, Florence
© Scala/Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali / Art Resource, NY

Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538. Collection of Uffizi Gallery, Florence
© Scala/Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali / Art Resource, NY

The myriad reference points for this work include Giacometti, Titian, Brancusi, Duchamp, and Elie Nadelman, artists who have approached the female form geometrically—taking it apart only to reassemble it again from those lines, curves, and shapes to underscore an innate sense of beauty and wonder.

A painting by Jeff Koons, titled Antiquity (Ariadne Titian Venus Adonis Popcorn), dated 2012–2014

Jeff Koons, Antiquity (Ariadne Titian Venus and Adonis Popcorn), 2012–2014

Jeff Koons, Antiquity (Ariadne Titian Venus and Adonis Popcorn), 2012–2014

The figure of Venus also recurs in Koons’s Easyfun-Ethereal, Gazing Ball, and Porcelain series, plucked from art history as well as popular visual culture, challenging notions of originality, iconography, and the gaze through a playful, Duchampian approach updated for contemporary times.

A painting by Sandro Boticelli, titled The Birth of Venus, dated c. 1484–1486

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (detail),
c. 1484–1486
Collection of Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (detail),
c. 1484–1486
Collection of Uffizi Gallery, Florence

A painting by Jeff Koons, titled Prison (Venus), dated 2001

Jeff Koons, Prison (Venus), 2001

Jeff Koons, Prison (Venus), 2001

“Art has this ability to allow you to connect back through history in the same way that biology does.”
—Jeff Koons

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Venus, dated 2016-Present

Jeff Koons, Venus, 2016–present. Porcelain series sculpture currently in production

Jeff Koons, Venus, 2016–present. Porcelain series sculpture currently in production

A graphic header featuring a work by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Red), dated 2013-2019

Koons’s broader engagement with inflatable forms dates to the late 1970s. For his first mature body of work, Inflatables, he placed small blow-up flowers in mirrored tableaux. In 1986, Koons created his now-canonical Rabbit, his first inflatable form to be rendered in highly reflective stainless steel. The artist famously elaborated on this theme in his Celebration series, begun in 1994, in which he transposed balloon animals and flowers into mirror-polished stainless-steel forms. In later series such as Popeye, begun in 2003, and Hulk Elvis, begun in 2004, Koons turned to toys and comic book characters as subject matter, mining dual themes of popular entertainment and childhood innocence. Seemingly buoyant and light, Koons’s inflatable sculptures are in fact cast and machined metals painted in bright, cheerful colors that render the original toys permanent.

A triptych featuring archival polaroids taken by Jeff Koons documenting artworks from his Inflatables series in 1978

Polaroids taken by Koons documenting artworks from his Inflatables series in his apartment studio in 1978

Polaroids taken by Koons documenting artworks from his Inflatables series in his apartment studio in 1978

A triptych featuring Archival polaroids taken by Jeff Koons documenting artworks from his Inflatables series in 1978

Polaroids taken by Koons documenting artworks from his Inflatables series in his apartment studio in 1978

Polaroids taken by Koons documenting artworks from his Inflatables series in his apartment studio in 1978

An installation view featuring a work by Jeff Koons, titled Hulk (Friends), dated 2004–2012

Jeff Koons, Hulk (Friends), 2004–2012. Installation view, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Austria, 2015
Photo by Johannes Stoll

Jeff Koons, Hulk (Friends), 2004–2012. Installation view, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Austria, 2015
Photo by Johannes Stoll

The female Venus form started appearing in Koons’s work in the late 1970s, and he sees Snorkel Vest and Aqualung (both 1985) as feminine and masculine representations of the Venus of Willendorf. “Looking at these sculptures of inflatable life-saving devices, you become aware of their anthropomorphic aspects,” the artist says. “Their reference to human membrane is present along with the consciousness that both biological and cultural memory is life-saving. Certain works of mine have a dialogue with time and space through the references of human history and my Venus sculptures are an example of those.”

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Aqualung, dated 1985

Jeff Koons, Aqualung, 1985

Jeff Koons, Aqualung, 1985

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Rabbit, dated 1986

Koons’s 1986 Rabbit represents an important breakthrough in his practice as the first inflatable form to be cast in metal.

Koons’s 1986 Rabbit represents an important breakthrough in his practice as the first inflatable form to be cast in metal.

Prior to beginning work on the four distinct balloon Venus forms in the Antiquity series (each based on a different ancient representation of the goddess), the artist had made only six works that replicate twisted balloon forms, all among his most recognizable inflatables: a dog, a flower, tulips, a rabbit, a swan, and a monkey.

An installation view featuring works by Jeff Koons, dated 2013

Left to right: Jeff Koons, Balloon Swan (Blue), 2004–2011; Balloon Monkey (Red), 2006–2013; Balloon Rabbit (Yellow), 2005–2010
Installation view, Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculpture Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2013.
Photo by Tom Powel Imaging

Left to right: Jeff Koons, Balloon Swan (Blue), 2004–2011; Balloon Monkey (Red), 2006–2013; Balloon Rabbit (Yellow), 2005–2010
Installation view, Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculpture Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2013.
Photo by Tom Powel Imaging

An installation view featuring a work by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Dog (Orange), dated 1994-2000

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000. Installation view, Jeff Koons: Absolute Value. Selected Works from the Collection of Marie and Jose Mugrabi, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2020.
Photo by Elad Sarig

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000. Installation view, Jeff Koons: Absolute Value. Selected Works from the Collection of Marie and Jose Mugrabi, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2020.
Photo by Elad Sarig

An installation view featuring works by Jeff Koons, dated 2004-2011

Jeff Koons, Balloon Swan (Yellow), 2004–2011. Installation view, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, 2017. Photo by Moritz Bernoully

Jeff Koons, Balloon Swan (Yellow), 2004–2011. Installation view, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, 2017. Photo by Moritz Bernoully

An installation view featuring works by Jeff Koons, dated 2001

Left to right: Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994–2000; Rabbit, 1986, Tulips; 1995–2004, Hulk Elvis I, 2007;Caterpillar Ladder, 2003
Installation view, Re-Object: Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Merz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria, 2007.
Photo by Tretter Fotografie

Left to right: Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994–2000; Rabbit, 1986, Tulips; 1995–2004, Hulk Elvis I, 2007;Caterpillar Ladder, 2003
Installation view, Re-Object: Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Merz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria, 2007.
Photo by Tretter Fotografie

“When Jeff Koons uses a small tchotchke [or] replica...or when he inflates the tiny Venus of Willendorf into a huge pneumatic figure…he is not subverting the antique tradition so much as perpetuating its scalable logic.”
—Alexander Nagel, art historian

A photograph featuring an installation view of a sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Rabbit (Magenta), dated 2005-2010

Jeff Koons, Balloon Rabbit (Magenta), 2005–2010
Installation view, Jeff Koons, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, 2017. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen

Jeff Koons, Balloon Rabbit (Magenta), 2005–2010
Installation view, Jeff Koons, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, 2017. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice (Yellow), dated 2013-2017

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice (Yellow), 2013–2017

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Dolni Vestonice (Yellow), 2013–2017

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), dated 2013-2019

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), 2013–2019

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), 2013–2019

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus Lespugue (Violet), dated 2013-2019

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Violet), 2013–2019

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus Lespugue (Violet), 2013–2019

A sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Venus (Orange), dated 2008-2012

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus (Orange), 2008–2012

Jeff Koons, Balloon Venus (Orange), 2008–2012

The reflective surface of the sculptures makes the viewer part of the work: it is not only the object of our perception but also reflects us back to ourselves. “One of the most used words in philosophy is to ‘reflect.’ To reflect is an inward process, but also an outward process,” says Koons. “The use of reflective surfaces was to connect the work to philosophy and the experience of becoming. And that we not only have our internal life, but we also have the external world—this interaction is what gives us a future.”

A photograph of a sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Balloon Flower (Magenta), dated 1995-2000

Jeff Koons, Balloon Flower (Magenta), 1995–2000

Jeff Koons, Balloon Flower (Magenta), 1995–2000




“Reflections tell the viewer that nothing is ever happening without them. Art happens inside them.”
—Jeff Koons




A photograph featuring a detail from a sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Venus of Lespugue (Red)
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