Billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s Jeff Koons Balloon Sculpture Could Fetch Over $10 Million at Auction to Benefit Ukraine
Ukrainian businessman, art collector, and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk and his wife Olena are selling Jeff Koons’s sculpture Balloon Monkey (Magenta) at Christie’s London to raise money for humanitarian aid in Ukraine during the ongoing Russian invasion. It could bring in as much as $25 million.
“Every fellow Ukrainian civilian killed or wounded by Russian shelling, shooting, and systematic violence means a wound in our souls,” Pinchuk said in a statement. “With the proceeds of the auction, we can help save lives. We can help make lives destroyed by war whole again.”
One of the world’s most prominent art collectors, Pinchuk also used his art platform to promote the Ukrainian cause at the Venice Biennale, where the Pinchuk Art Centre staged the exhibition “This Is Ukraine: Defending Freedom,” in lieu of its biannual Future Generation Art Prize.
The Koons work coming to auction, which dates from 2006 to 2013, carries an estimate of £6 million to £10 million ($7.55 million to $12.58 million). In November 2014, Balloon Monkey (Orange), a piece from the same five-piece series, sold for $25.9 million, which suggests the work could overshoot expectations.
The proceeds will help wounded soldiers and civilians who need prosthetics with their medical treatment and rehabilitation.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
For the artist, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) takes on new meaning in light of the Ukrainian plight. “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,” Koons added. “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.”
Ahead of the “20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale” on June 28, the work will go on view outside of Christie’s headquarters in St. James’s Square, from June 14 to July 3.
The auction house previously exhibited Koons’s sculpture Balloon Flower (Magenta) ahead of a 2008 sale that fetched a then-record price for the artist of $25.7 million. Koons is the world’s most expensive living artist thanks to the May 2019 sale of his sculpture Rabbit (1986) for $91 million.
Some 500 Ukrainian soldiers are believed to be wounded each day that the conflict carries on, for around 10,000 to date, in addition to 4,916 Ukrainian civilians, 431 of whom are children.
“In the early morning of February 24, the life of all Ukrainians was changed forever,” Olena said in a statement. “We need allies. We need the world to help us, to support our efforts, and stand with us in this fight against evil.”
She hopes the auction will “remind the world that the war is not over yet.”
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