Before Jeff Koons married Italian porn actress Ilona Staller in 1991, the artist put the couple’s lovemaking in the spotlight as the subject of his "Made in Heaven" series, which made waves at the 1990 Venice Biennale. But his "heaven" soon became a real-life hell. After the couple’s marriage fell apart, Staller kidnapped the couple's then-two-year-old son Ludwig in 1994, despite having a joint custody agreement. Koons battled Staller in the Italian courts (Staller had brought Ludwig to Rome) for five years, eventually losing custody when the case hit the country’s supreme court.
Koons's harrowing personal experience led to the founding of the Koons Family Institute on International Law and Policy, an initiative of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. Three years ago, Koons teamed up with beauty and grooming brand Kiehl’s to raise money for the cause through a limited-edition holiday collection of the brand’s signature Creme de Corps body moisturizer. So far, Kiehl's has raised $400,000.
The label of the 2011 edition features an image of the artist’s "Balloon Flower (Yellow)" sculpture from his "Celebration" series against a fuchsia background. The flower, which was exhibited in Versailles from 2008 to 2009, holds a special significance for the artist. "I believe that flowers are a symbol for perfect love, and an important expression for this charitable collaboration with Kiehl’s," said Koons in a statement. "Partnering with Kiehl’s again to help organizations like the Koons Family Institute not only helps on a worldwide scale, but it is also personally gratifying to know that our project will be able to actually do good around the world. Together we are trying to protect and nurture our children's place in the community."
The artist has also said that flowers "are a symbol that life goes forward," a sentiment that seems relevant in this case. But the image Koons has used for the bottle might also have another, stranger meaning — Christie's has noted that the "Balloon Flower" works have "an overtly erotic charge" at their centers, and that their "petals form an orifice-like fulcrum." "The sculpture's curving, swollen forms suggest a sexually aroused and inviting body," reads a Christie's catalog essay. Maybe this moisturizer could be used for other purposes?
Up to $200,000 of Kiehl’s worldwide net profits will go towards the Koons Family Institute on International Law and Policy.