Victor Pinchuk donates £10.2m to Koons Balloon Monkey to help Ukraine

Proceeds from the sale of Jeff Koons’ iconic Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-13), which sold for £10,136,500 / $12,437,486 / €11,738,067 at Christie’s last night, will be donated to raising vital funds for humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The sculpture was generously donated by Victor and Olena Pinchuk, with proceeds from the sale being used to help soldiers and civilians seriously injured by war who urgently need prosthetics, medical care and rehabilitation to regain the best quality possible life.

Balloon Monkey is a monumental symbol of hope and solidarity with these men, women and children living in war-torn Ukraine

Balloon Monkey was acquired by Jens Faurschou, who commented: “It is a double joy to have had the chance to acquire such a phenomenal work from one of the leading voices of contemporary art for an exceptional collection, and to contribute to the humanitarian efforts for the victims of the war against Ukraine. We celebrate these vital charitable initiatives in the art world, and we need more.

Representing the innocence and joy of childhood for children and adults, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is a monumental symbol of hope and solidarity with those men, women and children living in war-torn Ukraine who have suffered a terrible loss.

Katharine Arnold, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “As the war in Ukraine continues, devastating the whole country, I could not be more honored to have worked with Victor and Olena Pinchuk on the sale of Jeff Koons’ seminal sculpture Balloon Monkey (Magenta), to realize a total of £10,136,500.The largest and final piece in the artist’s famous series of balloon animals is a sparkling symbol of solidarity. The balloon animal reminds us that the ordinary course of life and its simple pleasures are absent from the lives of those who experience war.

Jeff Koons Monkey Balloon (Magenta)

The themes of air, breath and inflation have long been central to Koons’ practice. He began exploring inflatables as early as 1979 with his Inflatables, which found counterparts in the fluorescent-lit recessed vacuum cleaners he exhibited as The New the following year. The 1985 Equilibrium series included basketballs suspended in water tanks and heavy, unnerving bronze flotation devices. His iconic stainless steel rabbit, a direct ancestor of twisted balloon animals, appeared in 1986; the Balloon Dog arrived as part of the large-scale Celebration series that began in the early 1990s, which reimagined objects associated with milestones such as birthdays, Easter, and Valentine’s Day. Alongside Balloon Swan (2004-11) and Balloon Rabbit (2005-10), Balloon Monkey (Magenta) represents an evolution of these works, developing their exuberant spirit and complex, confusing presence.

A glorious vision, seven years in the making, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-13) saw Jeff Koons’ sculptural practice reach extraordinary heights of formal splendor, technical achievement and pure, awe-inspiring impact. Completed on the eve of the artist’s career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, its alluring form, monumental scale, and opulently colored reflective surface capture the essence of his work. Koons continually probes the iconography of childhood innocence to shed light on the desires and joy that drive our relationship to art.

Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is the artist’s proof and one of five unique versions of Balloon Monkey, each formed from mirror-polished stainless steel with a transparent color coating: the others are colored red, blue, yellow and orange. Expanding on the vocabulary of the Celebration series, which included Koons’ first inflatable colossus, the iconic Balloon Dog (1994-2000), Balloon Monkey (Magenta) reaches a pinnacle of brilliant, weightless perfection. Sweeping six meters from head to tail and standing nearly four meters tall, it stands like a sphinx or totem, an ephemeral toy transformed into a sublime otherworldly object of worship.

With its pyramidal structure and cantilevered swooping tail, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) can be seen as an abstract, almost architectural presence. Its clean lines and space-age geometries recall the work of Constantin Brâncuși, the father of modernist sculpture. Its form contains multiple layers of abstraction, from ape to depiction of balloons to monolithic sculpture, as if elevated from reality to a metaphysical ideal. Nonetheless, Koons strives to achieve a sense of “objectivity” and universality through the sheer, hyper-polished craftsmanship of his works, which has never been touched by mortal hands.

Top left photo: Victor Pinchuk © Artlyst 2022 Right balloon monkey (magenta) © Christie’s Images Ltd 2022.

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