Like much of Jeff Koons’s artwork, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank explores consumerism and the fetishization of everyday objects. In this case, the object is a basketball referencing Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Koons created the effect of perfect equilibrium by suspending the basketball in a solution of distilled water and pure salt. But, as with most things that appear perfect, there are unseen complexities; eventually the basketball will sink. This sculpture is a metaphor for the way sports advertising of the 1980s portrayed athletic stardom as a pathway out of poverty. But because it was obtainable by so few, many were left disillusioned by their desires of success, fame, and fortune.
This sculpture is on view now in Artistic Tribute: Representation of the Athlete. The exhibition pays homage to the historic Olympic tradition of including the arts as a competition. As in the Ancient Olympics, until 1948 the Modern Olympics included artistic representations of the athletes in painting and sculpture, among other media. This exhibition features artworks from the Museum’s Collection that follow this custom.