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.’
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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