Ukrainian-born billionaire and philanthropist Viktor Pinchuk and his wife Elena auctioned off a Jeff Koons sculpture at Christie’s this month in London. Their goal is to raise funds for medical care for Ukrainian soldiers during the ongoing war with Russian troops.
A metal pink sculpture by Jeff Koons called Balloon Monkey (Magenta), 2006–2013, valued at £10 million ($12.6 million). However, other editions of the sculpture surpassed Christie’s estimate. In November 2014, Balloon Monkey (Orange), a five-piece piece from the same series, sold for $25.9 million. In May 2019, his silver sculpture Rabbit (1986) sold for $91 million.
The current piece will be offered during the 20th and 21st century sale evening at Christie’s London at the end of the month. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Collectors Family Foundation’s UK office for distribution.
Victor Pinchuk’s statement says that every citizen of Ukraine killed or injured as a result of shelling, shootings and systematic violence is a wound in the souls of people. The auction proceeds can help save lives.
Jeff Koons is a close friend of Pinchuk. The artist said that the upcoming lot has its Ukrainian roots as it was inspired by figurines of Venus that he saw at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in Kyiv before creating the work. This museum is one of the few cultural spaces that were not damaged or destroyed during the conflict.
Pinchuk, a former politician who made his fortune in the steel industry, actively promoted his national roots and Ukrainian political ideas in the West during the years of conflict with Russia.
Viktor Pinchuk is one of the richest men in Ukraine. He founded the eponymous art space Pinchuk Arts Center in 2006, dedicated to showcasing contemporary Ukrainian artists.
The Victor Pinchuk Art Center was closed in Kyiv due to the beginning of the war. As part of the Venice Biennale, the center, in partnership with the Ukrainian government, organized the exhibition “This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom,” in which President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed visitors remotely.
The exhibition was staged in place of the center presenting its highly publicized Future Generation Art Prize, which has previously been awarded to artists Njideke Akunili Crosby, Martine Sims, Korakrit Arunanondchai, and Toyin Oji Odutola.
Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine began in February, the Pinchuks have channeled some $30 million worth of medical aid through their funds to Ukrainian soldiers and hospitals treating wounded civilians. As of last month, the death toll among Ukrainian civilians has reached 4,916.
In March, it was reported that Pinchuk’s metal supply company Interpipe was purchasing protective equipment for the Ukrainian military and defense forces. In 2018, Pinchuk was sanctioned by the Russian Federation, although it was reported that in the first half of 2019, Interpipe exported $54 million worth of pipes and railway parts to Russia. Victor Pinchuk claims that the company has no current business interests in Russia.