JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
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JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
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Please note that at our discretion some lots may b… Read more PROPERTY SOLD TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN AID FOR UKRAINE, IN PARTICULAR FOR PROSTHETICS, MEDICAL TREATMENT AND THE REHABILITATION OF UKRAINIANS WOUNDED IN THE WAR
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)

Balloon Monkey (Magenta)

Details
JEFF KOONS (B. 1955)
Balloon Monkey (Magenta)
mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating
150 x 126 x 235in. (381 x 320 x 596.9cm.)
Executed in 2006-2013, this work is the artist’s proof and one of five unique versions (Red, Magenta, Blue, Yellow, Orange)
Provenance
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner.
Literature
J. Pissarro, Jeff Koons, Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels 2013, pp. 73 and 81.
T. Zwick, Double-Barrel Frieze-Week Jeff Koons at Gagosian and Zwirner, Art in America 101, no.5, 2013 (Red version illustrated in colour).
Jeff Koons Sticks With Gagosian For New Spring Exhibition, Artlyst, 7 May 2013 (Red version illustrated in colour).
K. Brooks, Jeff Koons Exhibit: 'New Painting and Sculpture' Hits Gagosian Gallery, Huffington Post, New York 12 May 2013 (Red version illustrated).
A. Russeth, ‘Jeff Koons - New Paintings and Sculpture' at Gagosian Gallery and 'Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball' at David Zwirner, GalleristNY, New York 14 May 2013 (Red version illustrated).
R. Smith. "Gladiatorial Combat: The Battle of the Big," New York Times, New York 17 May 2013 (Red version illustrated).
J. Saltz. Follow the Floating Blue Ball, New York Magazine, New York 3 June 2013 (Red version illustrated).
D. Behringer, A Closer Look at Jeff Koons, Design Milk, New York 18 June 2013 (Red version illustrated in colour).
J. E. Kaufman, King of Kitch, Black Card Mag, New York 2013 (Red version illustrated in colour, p. 242).
H. Halle, Jeff Koons,  Time Out New York, New York 7 June 2013 (Red version illustrated).
M. Taylor (ed.), Jeff Koons Conversations with Norman Rosenthal, London 2014 (Red version illustrated in colour, pp. 2-3).
Jeff Koons: La Rétrospective, exh. cat, Paris, Centre Pompidou, 2014, p. 157 (Red version illustrated in colour, p. 157).
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, exh. cat, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2014 , p. 149 (Red version illustrated in colour, p. 149).
I. Sischy, Jeff Koons is Back, Vanity Fair, New York 2014 (Red version illustrated in colour).
J. Kim, A Magician of Creation and Destruction, Art in Asia, Japan 2014 (Red version illustrated in colour).
M. Fujimori, Jeff Koons, Art Techo 66, no. 1012, Japan 2014 (Red version illustrated in colour, p. 78).
H. Deballieux, Jeff Koons: Faiseur d’icônes, L’œil, Paris 2014, p. 8.
Jeff Koons: Retrospectiva, exh. cat, Bilbao, Fundaciôn Guggenheim Bilbao, 2015, p. 159 (Red version illustrated in colour, p. 159).
M. Amy, A Supreme Trouble-Maker in Crowd-Pleasing, Sculpture 34, no. 2, Kansas 2015, p. 59 (Red version illustrated in colour, p. 58).
F. Nayeri, Damien Hirst to Open a Jeff Koons Show at His London Museum, The New York Times, New York 16 May 2016 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
M. Gayford, Like Rubens, Jeff Koons work is about repetition, fertility and sex and piping, The Spectator, London 11 June 2016 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
S Eckardt, Jeff Koons Will Collaborate with Anyone, From Louis Vuitton to Phone Cases and Lady Gaga, W Magazine, New York 11 April 2017 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
M. Wakim, Can You Guess Which Jeff Koons Balloon Animal Is Being Built at LACMA as We Speak?, Los Angeles Magazine, Los Angeles 13 December 2018 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
Jeff Koons at The Ashmolean, exh. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean, 2019, p.18 (Red version illustrated, p. 19).
P. Uttam, The Biggest Sales of the 2010s, Artsy, 2019 (Orange version illustrated in colour).
S. Novak, PHOTOS: A Look Inside the Booth Estate, Austin American-Statesman, Austin 13 February 2020 (Red version illustrated in colour).
Qatar Museums to present first exhibition by Jeff Koons in Gulf Region, Gulf Times, Qatar 13 September 2021 (Yellow version illustrated in colour).
Marivie, Qatar Museums to present first exhibition by Jeff Koons in the Gulf Region, I Love Qatar, Qatar 15 September 2021 (Yellow version illustrated in colour).
E. Minucci, Jeff Koons e i suoi segreti "Sartre dietro il coniglio, La Stampa, Italy 27 September 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour). 
Jeff Koons Shine at Palazzo Strozzi until January 30, 2022, The Florentine, Italy, 30 September 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
S. Kobel, Exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi: Jeff Koons' Ode to Beauty, Handelsblatt, Germany 7 October 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
S. Airoldi, L'agenda delle mostre da vedere questa settimana in tutta Italia, Elle Decor, Italy 9 October 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
M. Arrigoni, Jeff Koons in mostra a Firenze accoglie gli spettatori in un luna park del consumismo chic, Harper's Bazaar, Italy 10 October 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
F. Blythe, I’m Trying to Become a Vaster Human Being”: Jeff Koons on Life and Art, AnOther, London 14 October 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
G. Czöppan, Was macht die Koonst?, Focus, Germany 16 October 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
H. Lloyd-Smith, At home with Jeff Koons, Wallpaper, London 22 October 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
N. Gierowska, Jeff Koons. Shine, The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn 2 November 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
M. Holman, Exhibition review: Jeff Koons. Shine at Palazzo Strozzi, The Florentine, Florence 18 November 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
D. Cisi, Shine. Le scintillanti opere di Jeff Koons in mostra a Firenze a Palazzo Strozzi, Glitch Magazine, Italy 27 November 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
G. Bastek, Ai Weiwei and Jeff Koons: Delight and Shine, Vogue Poland, Poland 29 November 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
S. Peifen, "Lost in America": A Visual Biography of Jeff Koons, The Financial Times Chinese, China 2 December 2021 (Yellow version illustrated in colour).
B. Locoge, Jeff Koons, La World Compagnie, Paris Match, n°3789, Paris 16 December 2021 (Yellow version illustrated in colour).
P. Tuchman, Jeff Koons Looks Back on a Life in the Art World, Town & Country, 20 December 2021 (Yellow version illustrated in colour).
P. Koustas, What will we remember from the world of fashion and art for 2021, Esquire Greece, Greece 23 December 2021 (Blue version illustrated in colour).
B. B. Bonomi, Jeff Koons in Qatar: The American Artist’s Lost in America Exhibition Is One Not To Be Missed…, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, 25 March 2022 (Yellow version illustrated in colour).
Exhibited
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Jeff Koons: New Paintings and Sculpture, 2013, pp. 16, 82 and 97 (Red version exhibited, illustrated in colour pp. 76-77, 83, 86-87 and 97).
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Balloon Monkey (Orange), 2017-2019 (Orange version exhibited).
London, Newport Street Gallery, Jeff Koons: Now, 2019, p.76 (Blue version exhibited, illustrated, pp. 77 and 82-83).
Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, Jeff Koons: Shine, 2021-2022 (Blue version exhibited).
Doha, Qatar Museums Al Riwaq Gallery, Jeff Koons: Lost in America, 2021-2022 (Yellow version exhibited).
Special notice
Please note that at our discretion some lots may be moved immediately after the sale to our storage facility at Momart Logistics Warehouse: Units 9-12, E10 Enterprise Park, Argall Way, Leyton, London E10 7DQ. At King Street lots are available for collection on any weekday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. Collection from Momart is strictly by appointment only. We advise that you inform the sale administrator at least 48 hours in advance of collection so that they can arrange with Momart. However, if you need to contact Momart directly: Tel: +44 (0)20 7426 3000 email: pcandauctionteam@momart.co.uk. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Statement from Jeff Koons, June 2022

I am deeply honored to have my artwork Balloon Monkey (Magenta) auctioned at Christie’s London, through the generous donation of Victor and Olena Pinchuk, to create humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian people. Victor and Olena Pinchuk have been working tirelessly to support Ukraine, so it is a sincere privilege to have my artwork be at the service of their extraordinary efforts to raise critical funds to support the Ukrainian people. Art’s true value is to be of service to humanity and there could not be a higher calling at this moment than to support the people of Ukraine.

Through my friendship with Victor and Olena Pinchuk, my life has been enriched by the people of Ukraine and its culture. I have had the opportunity to visit Ukraine numerous times by myself and with my family and have always felt a strong sense of community, friendship, and history. My series of Balloon Venus sculptures are in dialogue with prehistoric venus figurines I viewed in the collection of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine. For me, the sculptures engage with human history and the connectivity of art that spans the history of humankind.

One of the reasons that I have always worked with balloons is that that the membrane is a reference to our skin; it’s about both internal and external life. Balloon Monkey (Magenta) symbolizes hope, affirmation, and transcendence, so, for me, it is very fitting to have this sculpture engaged in this effort to support the Ukrainian people at this time in history.
 
I have been very saddened by the war and destruction that I have seen affecting the Ukrainian people and their culture and I can only hope that the donation of my artwork by Victor and Olena Pinchuk can help draw attention to the need for aid and support for the Ukrainian people, now more than ever.

***

A majestic vision seven years in the making, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-2013) sees Jeff Koons’s sculptural practice reach extraordinary new heights of formal splendour, technical achievement and sheer, awe-inspiring impact. Completed on the eve of the artist’s career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, its seductive form, monumental scale and reflective, opulently coloured surface—all precision-crafted to seemingly impossible levels of flawlessness and finish—capture the essence of his work, which probes the iconography of childhood innocence to expose the deep drives of desire and joy that animate our relationship with art. The present sculpture is the highly sought-after artist’s proof and one of five unique versions of Balloon Monkey, each formed of mirror-polished stainless steel with a transparent colour coating: the others are red, blue, yellow, and orange. They are the very largest of Koons’s balloon-animal works. Developing the vocabulary of the Celebration series—which included the artist’s first inflatable colossus, the iconic Balloon Dog (1994-2000)—Balloon Monkey (Magenta) arrives at an apex of glossy, weightless perfection. Sweeping six metres from head to tail and standing almost four metres high, it towers like a sphinx or totem, an ephemeral plaything transformed into a sublime, otherworldly object of worship.

The themes of air, breath and inflation have long been central to Koons’s practice. He began to explore blow-up objects as early as 1979 with his Inflatables, which found counterparts in the encased, fluorescently-lit vacuum cleaners he exhibited as The New the following year. The Equilibrium series of 1985 included basketballs suspended in tanks of water, and unnerving, weighty flotation devices made of bronze. His iconic stainless steel Rabbit, a direct ancestor to the twisted balloon animals, appeared in 1986; the Balloon Dog arrived as part of the large-scale Celebration series commenced in the early 1990s, which reimagined objects associated with milestones such as birthdays, Easter and Valentine’s Day. Alongside Balloon Swan (2004-2011) and Balloon Rabbit (2005-2010), Balloon Monkey represents an evolution of these works, developing their exuberant spirit and complex, confounding presence. Beyond their sensual play between lightness and weight, fragility and strength, Koons sees the inflatables as metaphors for the human condition. ‘I think it comes about just defining this balance of interior/exterior’, he explains. ‘You breathe in and you inflate. You pull the external realm into yourself, and you inflate. Breath is a symbol of life energy. When you exhale, it returns to the exterior, that’s a symbol of almost your last breath’ (J. Koons in conversation with X. Sturgis, in Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean, exh. cat. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 2019, p. 18).

That something so seemingly childish can speak to these grand, existential ideas is a revelation: Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is a confluence of the sublime and the ridiculous, transcending our every aesthetic assumption. Its very physical presence is hallucinogenic. As if by magic, the most fleeting of objects has become an immaculate, gleaming titan in several tons of stainless steel. This miraculous spectacle is the result of an extraordinary devotion to precision, purity and integrity. Working from an actual balloon monkey created by a specialist inflatable artist, Koons and his team of fabricators used bespoke white-light and CT scanning technologies to create a finely-tuned computerised model, before engaging in an intricate multi-step process of casting, three-dimensional milling, polishing and painting—involving much trial and error, and thousands of hours of work—in the pursuit of the final, faultless object. ‘For Koons,’ writes curator Scott Rothkopf, ‘this is a matter of earning his audience’s “trust”, which he prizes above all else: trust in the work, trust in its maker, and trust in the very idea and power of art … The asymmetry between his quotidian subjects and meticulous methodology is in large measure what makes his works so stupefying to contemplate, if riveting to behold … Their shrewd precision invokes in us the consuming wonder of a child before a toy, and also, at times, a sense of awe and even terror’ (S. Rothkopf, ‘No Limits’, in Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, exh. cat. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 2014, p. 31). In Balloon Monkey (Magenta), the seamless detail of each twist, pucker and swell lends the faux-balloon surface an astonishing verisimilitude. The sculpture’s taut skin seems ready to burst at a pinprick, and its torsions and tensions strain with a near-audible rubbery squeak.

Koons’s choice of the monkey comes freighted with art-historical meaning, and has precedent in his own work. In his sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988)—a gold-and-white porcelain incarnation of the King of Pop, who Koons said at the time was the one other living person he would wish to be—Jackson’s pet chimp, cradled in his owner’s lap, took the place of the infant Jesus in a tableau that recalled the traditional image of Madonna and Child. As our closest living relatives, apes and monkeys have long been used to subvert, question or poke fun at the pretensions of the human world. The genre of singerie, at its height of popularity in 18th century France, saw monkeys dressed in clothes, mimicking or intervening in people’s affairs, and even—as in Jean-Baptiste Chardin’s The Monkey Painter (1739-40)—taking the position of the artist. In Nature Morte: Portrait of Cézanne/Portrait of Renoir/Portrait of Rembrandt (1920), Francis Picabia ridiculed the great art of the past with the image of a stuffed toy monkey: a gesture that Koons has cited as an inspiration for his work, which, with its surreal use of the ‘readymade’, shares much of Picabia’s Dadaist spirit. More recently, the British graffiti artist Banksy has used apes to similarly satirical ends in works such as Devolved Parliament (2009), which depicts the House of Commons filled with chimpanzees. In Balloon Monkey (Magenta), the surface’s mirror-polish brings the spectator’s own image into the work. While Koons sees this involvement of the viewer as affirming and uplifting, it also means that—like visitors to a zoo—while we gaze at the monkey, the monkey gazes back at us.

With its pyramidal structure and swooping, cantilevered 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 monkey to balloon representation to monument, as if distilled from reality to a metaphysical ideal. Koons strives for a sense of ‘objectivity’ and universality through the pure, hyper-polished facture of his works, which appear never to have been touched by mortal hands. In doing so, he uncovers something of the erotic charge that lies at the heart of our sensual interactions with the world. The monkey’s swelling, phallic tail and orifical creases and curves are not incidental: like the lingam and yoni statues of ancient Hindu tradition, it invokes both masculine and feminine aspects of sexuality. Koons encourages the viewer to embrace and enjoy these elements of life without guilt, returning to a state of prelapsarian wonder. ‘My art has always used sex as a direct communication line to the viewer’, he says. ‘The surface of my stainless steel pieces is pure sex and gives an object both a masculine and a feminine side: the weight of the steel engages with the femininity of the reflective surface’ (J. Koons, quoted in Jeff Koons at the Ashmoleanibid., p. 37).

Andy Warhol famously claimed that if anybody wanted to know all about him, they should ‘just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it’ (A. Warhol, quoted in G. Berg, ‘Andy: My True Story’, The East Village Other, November 1, 1966, p. 9). In Balloon Dog (Magenta), Koons performs a different vanishing trick. The candy-coloured surface reflects and abstracts only the viewer and their surroundings, and the artist seems to have disappeared entirely. It is a masterpiece of paradoxical power, its contradictions bouncing off it like light: mind-bending complexity and total simplicity; seriousness and play; innocence and eroticism; popular consumerism and our deepest, most primal structures of myth and belief. It is an object free of irony, created with near-unimaginable dedication, and presented as an expression of trust, openness, sincerity and love. It represents something that is bigger than us, yet part of us all. For all its surface tension and imposing, even overwhelming presence, the sculpture contains and holds the viewer in its mercurial façade, inviting them—like Alice through the looking glass—into a world of freedom and imagination. For Koons, the Balloon Monkey is a profound and buoyant affirmation that art is not only what we see, but what happens inside us.

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