The sale proceeds of Jeff Koons’ iconic Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-13), which sold for £10,136,500 / $12,437,486 / €11,738,067 at Christie’s last night, will be donated to raising vital funds for humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The sculpture was generously donated by Victor and Olena Pinchuk, with proceeds from the sale used to assist soldiers and civilians gravely wounded by war who urgently require prosthetics, medical treatment and rehabilitation to recover as much quality of life as possible.
Balloon Monkey stands as a monumental symbol of hope and solidarity with those men, women and children living in war-torn Ukraine
Balloon Monkey was acquired by Jens Faurschou, who commented: “It is a double joy to have had a chance to purchase such a phenomenal work by one of the leading voices in contemporary art for an outstanding collection, and to contribute to humanitarian efforts for victims of the war on Ukraine. We celebrate these vital charitable initiatives from the art world, and we need more.”
Representing childhood innocence and joy for children and adults alike, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) stands as a monumental symbol of hope and solidarity with those men, women and children living in war-torn Ukraine who have suffered a terrible loss.
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 have worked with Victor and Olena Pinchuk on the sale of Jeff Koons’ seminal sculpture Balloon Monkey (Magenta), to realise a total of £10,136,500. The largest and final piece in the artist’s celebrated series of balloon animals stands as a gleaming symbol of solidarity. The balloon animal reminds us that the ordinary course of life and its simple pleasures are absent from the lives of those living through war.”
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Monkey (Magenta)
The themes of air, breath and inflation have long been central to Koons’ 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 that commenced in the early 1990s, which reimagined objects associated with milestones such as birthdays, Easter and Valentine’s Day. Alongside Balloon Swan (2004-11) and Balloon Rabbit (2005-10), Balloon Monkey (Magenta) represents an evolution of these works, developing their exuberant spirit and complex, confounding presence.
A glorious vision, seven years in the making, Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-13) saw Jeff Koons’ sculptural practice reach extraordinary 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 capture the essence of his work. Koons continually probes the iconography of childhood innocence to highlight the desires and joy that animate our relationship with art.
Balloon Monkey (Magenta) is the 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 coloured red, blue, yellow, and orange. Developing the vocabulary of the Celebration series, which included Koons’ 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.
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 monolithic sculpture, as if elevated from reality to a metaphysical ideal. Nevertheless, Koons strives for a sense of ‘objectivity’ and universality through his works’ pure, hyper-polished facture, which never has been touched by mortal hands.
Top Photo Left: Victor Pinchuk © Artlyst 2022 Right Balloon Monkey (Magenta) © Christie’s Images Ltd 2022.