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Snapchat’s Latest Plaything: Jeff Koons Location-Based Art Lenses

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says IPO was 'the right thing at the time'

It could be even bigger than Snapchat’s Dancing Hot Dog.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel used the stage at the 2017 Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit to announce a collaboration with Jeff Koons. The artist worked with Snapchat to launch virtual art installations featuring his work in the app, tied to specific locations across the globe. The project marks Snapchat’s first location-based augmented-reality Lenses.

The Koons project is “just an example of the way Snapchat is trying to remove the friction in the creative process,” Spiegel said. “The fact we can bring these ginormous sculptures anywhere in the world… is just the beginning” of inspiring people to use the app for creative expression.

The proliferation of smartphones has rapidly moved communications from being text-based messages to photo and video based, which plays to Snapchat’s strengths, Spiegel added.

Koons teamed with Snapchat to create location-based Lenses inspired by some of his most recognizable sculptures, like the iconic Balloon Dog. Starting Tuesday, the art exhibits will show up for Snapchat users in major parks and landmarks in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Paris, Australia and Brazil, with more locations worldwide to follow.

Each location will feature a virtual representation of one of Koon’s brightly colored sculptures, including Balloon Dog, Swan, Rabbit, Popeye, and Play-doh. Sculptures will be available at each park for a couple of weeks at a time before traveling to new locations, which will be updated on the art.snapchat.com website.

The nine current live locations for the Koons installations are New York City’s Central Park; Chicago’s Millennium Park; the National Mall in Washington D.C.; L.A.’s Venice Boardwalk; Toronto’s Roundhouse Park; London’s Hyde Park; Paris’ Champ de Mars (near the Eiffel Tower); Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach; and the Sydney Opera House.

According to Snap, to discover the Koons Lenses, users must be within about 300 meters of the Lens and have the latest version of the Snapchat app installed. If nearby, the Koons Lenses will appear in the first slot in the carousel.

Snap may be delighting Snapchat users with its fun and creative new features, but Wall Street has been less impressed. The messaging and media app average 173 million daily active users in the second quarter of 2017, inching up from 166 million the prior quarter. Snap Q2 revenue and earnings missed analyst expectations.

Spiegel, asked by interviewer Walter Isaacson about whether Snap’s IPO was a good decision, responded that it was the right thing to do for the company to achieve “liquidity” and move from a venture-backed company to a publicly held one.

“I think going public was really the right thing for the company, and the right thing at the time,” Spiegel said.

Snap’s stock climbed nearly 60% in the days after its initial public offering in March, but has since fallen below its $17-per-share IPO price. “One of the things I did underestimate was how much more important communication becomes” for a public company, Spiegel said. He said investors may be fearful that “we may never be profitable” or that Snap won’t be able to keep up with competitors — which he said is par for the course with any startup.

Spiegel claimed that Snap’s Spectacles camera-enabled glasses have exceeded the company’s expectations, having sold 150,000 pairs to date. The original goal was to get 100,000 Spectacles into users’ hands as its initial entry into the hardware space, he said.

Prior to Spiegel’s appearance at the Vanity Fair confab, word had already leaked out about Snapchat’s new Koons AR filter, after users poked around the company’s website:

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