A significant highlight of Christie’s 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale, the work demonstrates the power of art to unify and rally support for the defence of freedom and life in urgent times. The sculpture will be exhibited in St James’ Square, adjacent to Christie’s Headquarters in London, inviting audiences across the capital to come together for a moment of contemplation from 14 June to 3 July 2022.
Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is a masterpiece of paradoxical power, its contradictions oscillating between mind-bending complexity and total simplicity; seriousness and play; pop culture 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. For Koons, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is a profound and buoyant affirmation that art is not only what we see, but what happens inside us.
In 2008, Koons’ sculpture Balloon Flower (Magenta) was similarly installed in St James’s Square. Much admired in its garden setting in central London, the artwork set a record at the time for Jeff Koons, realising $25.7 million. In November 2014, Balloon Monkey (Orange), from the same series as the present lot, achieved a price of $25.9 million.
Jeff Koons: “Victor and Olena Pinchuk have been working tirelessly to galvanize 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. 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.” Koons continued, “Through my friendship with Victor and Olena Pinchuk, my life has been enriched by the people and culture of Ukraine. 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. I have been very saddened by the human and cultural impact of the war and destruction that I have witnessed in Ukraine. Balloon Monkey (Magenta) fittingly symbolizes 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 this country, now more than ever.”
Victor Pinchuk: “Our gratitude and respect to our soldiers have no limits. They give their blood for us, the future of Ukraine, and the world. Every fellow Ukrainian civilian killed or wounded by Russian shelling, shooting, and systematic violence means a wound in our souls. With the proceeds of the auction, we can help save lives. We can help make lives destroyed by war whole again. Dozens, maybe hundreds of lives, each of which has a value beyond words. Jeff Koons’ Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is a celebration of life. We put life and hope against death and suffering. In art and in action. We are grateful to Jeff and to Christie’s. They help us transform at least some of our boundless gratitude to our fellow Ukrainians into help and support.”
Olena Pinchuk: “In the early morning of February 24th, the life of all Ukrainians was changed forever. We, as Ukrainians, are doing everything in our power to fight for each life and for each dream people had before the war. For this, we need allies. We need the world to help us, to support our efforts, and stand with us in this fight against evil. Jeff Koons’ Balloon Monkey (Magenta) will be auctioned on June 28th to remind the world that the war is not over yet and to raise funds for prostheses and other urgent medical aid that saves so many Ukrainian lives. Thank you for standing with Ukraine in this difficult time. Your support is life-saving!”
Katharine Arnold, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “As the war in Ukraine continues, wreaking devastation across the country, I could not be more honoured to be working with Victor and Olena Pinchuk on the sale of Jeff Koons’s seminal sculpture Balloon Monkey (Magenta). The largest and final piece in the artist’s celebrated series of balloon animals, it stands as a gleaming symbol of solidarity. The balloon animal reminds us that the ordinary course of life and its simple pleasures have been deprived from so many living through war. Exhibited in St James’ Square, I hope that Balloon Monkey (Magenta) will be a beacon of hope as we strive for a safer future together.”
* Since the beginning of the war, as of 31 May 2022, 4,916 Ukrainian civilians have been wounded, among those are 431 children. Around 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded at the front. In Ukraine, every day around four children and an estimated 500 soldiers are wounded.