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Jeff Koons Turns Handbags into Art for Project Perpetual

Last year his Balloon Dog (Orange) became the most expensive artwork by a living artist to be sold at auction at $58.4 million. This summer, his 37-foot-tall Split-Rocker sculpture stood sentinel at Rockefeller Center, right where their much-anticipated annual Christmas tree usually sits. And just last month, the Whitney closed the doors on the artist’s first retrospective—an exhibition met with much fanfare and endless ticket sales. Now it's his turn to give back.

Set in collaboration with Project Perpetual, a brand new philanthropic event series founded by Paris-based philanthropist and art collector Svetlana Uspenskaya, Koons has created nine works to be sold at auction on November 9 at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. The proceeds from the sale will support Shot@Life, a United Nations Foundation campaign that provides life-saving vaccinations to children worldwide.

Project Perpetual plans to work with different contemporary artists to create original works that incorporate a variety of prized objects donated by high-profile tastemakers and influencers. For the event’s inaugural edition next month, Koons has created works using luxury handbags originally owned by the likes of Sofia Coppola, Princess Caroline of Hanover and Marc Jacobs.

“When people decide to give up these bags,” says Koons, “they’re showing an understanding of ‘Yes, I have excess in this world, and that excess could be put to something that I find more meaningful.’”

As a world-renowned artist known for bombastic, larger-than-life works that raise everyday objects to the level of the iconic, Koons would appear a perfect fit for a philanthropic project intent on creating new meaning from luxury and possession—especially one trying to maximize awareness and funds. 

The primary piece, Gazing Ball (Charity)—made from three Birkin bags and inspired by Picasso’s La Soupe painting—is expected to fetch upwards of $2 million. With the cost of protecting one child against pneumonia, diarrhea, polio and measles at $20 per vaccine, the sale of this work alone could improve the lives of roughly 100,000 children around the globe.

For more information, go to projectperpetual.org. Auction takes place on November 9 at Four Seasons Restaurant; 99 E. 52nd St.; 212-754-9494; fourseasonsrestaurant.com. The event is invitation only; send inquiries to info@projectperpetual.org.

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