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The Snowboard of Jeff Koons's Dreams

It’s inspired by Plato and transcendence, he says, but the famously oblique artist is straightforward about his love of the winter sport.

Jeff Koons has long demonstrated a desire immortalize the mundane, and from basketballs to vacuum cleaners, he makes his objects functionally useless along the way. When he had the opportunity to design a snowboard, however, Koons’s little-known love of the sport apparently preserved the board for its intended purpose. A collaboration with Jake Burton of Burton Snowboards, The Philosopher, as it’s dubbed, was inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The extremely limited run of 50 boards was unveiled last week at Burton’s SoHo location.

Koons’s passion for snowboarding began when his six children begged him to swap out his skis and give it a chance. He was completely taken by the sport, enchanted with what he felt was a “sense of oneness.” “When you put your two feet on a board, this aspect of having a right side and a left side just disappears,” he says. “There’s a tremendous vastness that you feel, too, when you ride down a mountain and you’re able to go in a perfect line.”

That feeling of “transcendence,” as he describes it, brought him to the Allegory of the Cave, a story that Plato employed to illustrate his theory of knowledge and its effect on human nature. “[Exiting] the cave represents transcendence,” explains Koons. “If you let yourself break free, and walk out into the light, you experience reality. I was trying to reference that in the oneness of boarding.”

Koons and Burton met about three years ago and bonded over their mutual hobby. Soon, talks about collaborating were underway. For the graphics, Koons incorporated an image of a young Plato alongside symbols representing the Platonic solids. The pattern was technically challenging to execute (also one of Koons’s hallmarks), and took two years to complete. That didn’t stop Koons and Burton from testing out prototypes for the past year-and-a-half. “If you’re riding one way, you can see Plato’s head,” says Koons. “If you ride this way, you can see the elements.” The artist speaks comfortably about its fabrication, too. “It was made for powder. It was made to take really easy turns, have a lot of pop. It’s a short board, 151 cm, a good length for versatility.”

All proceeds from the boards will go to the Chill Foundation, a nonprofit established by Burton that gives underserved youth the chance to play and learn from winter sports.

“Philosopher” snowboard, $5,000, burton.com

(Photos: Courtesy Burton Snowboards)

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