How Jeff Koons created Phryne, his virtual ballerina

The artist, who is renowned world-wide for his Inflatables series explains the extraordinary process of creating a virtual world populated by a glimmering dancer.

“There are many things that excite me about VR,” says Jeff Koons, discussing Phryne – a new virtual reality work produced in collaboration with Acute Art, which translates one of his iconic sculptures into a moving ballerina, set in an imagined landscape.

The name of both Koons’ work and his virtual dancer, Phryne evokes the ancient Greek courtesan, who was famed for her beauty. In Koons’ work, he explains, she greets viewers and guides them through an idealised garden: “she interacts with you; she teaches you to enjoy being human.”

This video offers an exclusive insight into the making of Phyrne – a figure based on Koons’ monumental inflatable sculpture Seated Ballerina, which was installed outside New York’s Rockefeller Center in 2017. Symbolising beauty and connectivity, the work towered at 45-feet high, with a reflective surface mirroring its surrounds.

To replicate the metallic finish of Seated Ballerina, the technicians who helped to create Phryne used specially manufactured chrome. To create movement, Koons recorded a dancer from the New York Ballet, meticulously capturing each of the sequences that appear in the finished work.

“The whole idea was to try to create something special,” Koons concludes. “Once you have your own existence affirmed, then you’re able to go on with the affirmation of other things […] I gave Phryne a metallic surface to bring in affirmation,” Viewing the work, he explains “you realise your own reflection. From that point, you can go off into abstraction.”