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Selling A Koons For Ukraine

June 16, 2022

An outline of Ukraine colored with the colors of Ukraine's flag

A large Jeff Koons sculpture will be coming across the auction block at the end of the month. The work, Balloon Monkey (Magenta), is owned by the Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who purchased the work from Larry Gagosian not long after its creation in 2013. Christie’s specialists estimate that the sculpture will likely sell for £10 million (or about $12 million). According to Pinchuk, the proceeds from the sale will go towards purchasing medical supplies for Ukrainians affected by the ongoing war. This is very fitting with Pinchuk’s past actions. He and his wife Olena, daughter of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, have generously donated to several charitable causes through the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, the largest private philanthropic organization in Ukraine. In fact, since the outbreak of the war in late February, the Pinchuks have already given away an estimated $30 million towards relief efforts.

However, Christie’s specialists may be lowballing the estimate a little since many other large Koons works have reached much higher amounts than the mere £10 million. Most recently, Balloon Monkey (Orange), from the same series as the work up for sale, sold at Christie’s New York in 2014 for $23 million (or $25.9 million w/p). The year before, Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $52 million (or $58.4 million w/p). Also, with the explicitly stated objective of raising money for humanitarian purposes, the hammer price is bound to be far higher than the specialists’ estimate. When asked to comment on the Pinchuks’ decision, Koons stated, “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.” The Koons work will be part of the Christie’s 20th/21st Century sale that will take place at their London saleroom on June 28th. Though it will not be the highest-valued work in the sale (with two Monet works set to bring in far more), the circumstances of its appearing at auction may cause it to be the star of the sale.