‘Art’s true value is to be of service to humanity’ — Jeff Koons on the sale of his sculpture to aid Ukraine

Koons’s Balloon Monkey (Magenta), presented by Victor and Olena Pinchuk, is being offered in London to raise funds for medical treatment and rehabilitation for the citizens of Ukraine

On 28 June, Christie’s will offer one of Koons’s iconic mirror-polished stainless-steel sculptures — Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-13) — as part of the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale.

It comes from the collection of Victor and Olena Pinchuk, and the proceeds of the sale will be used to promote humanitarian aid in Ukraine, assisting wounded soldiers and civilians who urgently require medical treatment, prosthetics and rehabilitation.

‘Victor and Olena Pinchuk have been working tirelessly to galvanise humanitarian aid for Ukraine, so it is a sincere privilege to have my artwork Balloon Monkey (Magenta) auctioned at Christie’s to support their extraordinary efforts,’ says Koons.

‘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 Ukrainian people.’

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Monkey (Magenta), 2006-2013. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating. This work is the artist’s proof and one of five unique versions (Red, Magenta, Blue, Yellow, Orange). 150 x 126 x 235 in (381 x 320 x 596.9 cm). Sold for £10,136,500 on 28 June 2022 at Christie’s in London

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Monkey (Magenta), 2006-2013. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating. This work is the artist’s proof and one of five unique versions (Red, Magenta, Blue, Yellow, Orange). 150 x 126 x 235 in (381 x 320 x 596.9 cm). Sold for £10,136,500 on 28 June 2022 at Christie’s in London

Balloon Monkey (Magenta) represents the evolution of Koons’s ‘Celebration’ sculptures, which were first conceived in 1993, following on from the success of his earlier Rabbit (1986).

The series was inspired by the birth of Koons’s son in 1992, and draws on idealised notions of childhood and the annual cycle of red-letter days. Among the colossal works, painted in a sequence of transparent colour coatings, are Balloon Flower (1995-2000) (below), Tulips (1995-2004) and Cracked Egg (1994-2006).

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Flower (Magenta), 1995-2000. High chromium stainless steel with transparent colour coating. 133⅞ x 112¼ x 102⅜ in (340 x 285 x 260 cm). Sold for £12,921,250 on 30 June 2008 at Christie’s in London

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Flower (Magenta), 1995-2000. High chromium stainless steel with transparent colour coating. 133⅞ x 112¼ x 102⅜ in (340 x 285 x 260 cm). Sold for £12,921,250 on 30 June 2008 at Christie’s in London

Koons built on the series to create the monumental works Balloon Swan (2004-11), Balloon Rabbit (2005-10) and Balloon Monkey (2006-13). In 2013 — the same year he finished Balloon Monkey — Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994-2000) sold for $58.4 million at Christie’s in New York and made him the world’s most expensive living artist.

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating. 121 x 143 x 45  in (307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3 cm). Sold for $58,405,000 on 12 November 2013 at Christie’s in New York

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent colour coating. 121 x 143 x 45 in (307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3 cm). Sold for $58,405,000 on 12 November 2013 at Christie’s in New York

Completed on the eve of Koons’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) was seven years in the making, as the artist — a man of legendary high standards — perfected its size, shape and colour.

It was created with the collaboration of a professional balloon modeller, CT scanning equipment, a German fabrication firm and assistants in his New York studio.

This version is the artist’s proof and one of five unique versions, alongside others in red, blue, yellow and orange. Each weighs nearly five tons and is around 19-and-a-half feet (just under 6 metres) in length — making the monkey the largest of his balloon animals.

‘Jeff Koons’s Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is a celebration of life. We put life and hope against death and suffering. In art and in action’ — Victor Pinchuk

The other versions of Balloon Monkey  have been exhibited at Gagosian in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Qatar Museums in Doha, Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in London.

Balloon Monkey (Magenta)  fittingly symbolises hope, affirmation and transcendence, 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 people of Ukraine, now more than ever,’ says Koons.

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation was established in 2006, with the aim of empowering a new generation of change-makers. One of its pillars is the PinchukArtCentre in Kyiv, which champions local and global emerging artists.

Sign up today

Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week

Subscribe

The Olena Pinchuk Foundation was founded in 2003, initially to fight HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, then expanding to research medical aid on the battlefield and gender equality in the country.

Since the start of Russia’s most recent assault on Ukraine, on 24 February 2022, the couple have supported victims and the Ukrainian army with donations of more than $30 million.

Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is on view in St James’s Square in London until 3 July 2022