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TICKLED PINK: H&M took over the top floor of the Centre Pompidou in Paris on Tuesday night for a party celebrating its latest collaboration with Jeff Koons. The museum is hosting the first major European retrospective of the American artist’s work, which includes his large-scale sculpture Balloon Dog (Magenta).


The pink metallic figure popped up not only on the limited edition handbags H&M is rolling out for the occasion, but also in miniature format on trays of canapés. The Swedish high-street chain is one of the sponsors of the show, which comes on the heels of a blockbuster Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York.


Standing in front of a group of mannequins, Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s creative head of design, and Donald Schneider, H&M’s artistic director, greeted guests including Marie-Ange Casta, Malgosia Bela, John Nollet, Pamela Golbin, Martine Sitbon, Anna Cleveland and Jean-Marc Loubier.


“We wanted to support different kinds of creative work,” said Johansson. “We are at the Coachella festival, for example, so we support music, and we have our own H&M Design Award for young designers, and now art, so it feels like a good step.”


Schneider noted that since Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million, setting a world record for a living artist, Koons liked the idea of putting an image of the sculpture on a $50 bag. In New York, H&M used the yellow version, and it initially planned to do the same in Paris – but it turned out a different one was on show.


“That for us was a little bit of a problem, because we had to change the whole plan, and we had to get the okay from the owner of the Balloon Dog (Magenta,) which happened to be Monsieur Pinault,” he said, referring to French billionaire and luxury magnate François Pinault.


“So it was a bit funny that he was very happy to give us the okay to put his Balloon Dog on the handbag of H&M, which is really fantastic,” Schneider revealed. Koons was not in Paris but — ironically — in Sweden, where he was taking part in a Nobel Week Dialogue conversation about immortality with Nobel laureate Eric Kandel.


While the Pompidou exhibit has triggered heated debate among French intellectuals, the museum’s director, Bernard Blistène, stood by its choice. “I truly believe we should pay close attention to what Koons is saying. Koons reflects the world today and the desires of people today. Koons thinks positive – none of the dialectics and skepticism of Europeans,” he argued.


“I am very, very proud of the little H&M bag that I will rush to buy for my daughters, who have already asked for it via text message,” Blistène added.


Joana Preiss also professed herself a fan. “For me, he is truly in the lineage of Andy Warhol,” she said. “I have always liked him, even when it was very controversial. I find him quite mad and quite free.”


The French actress, singer and director has been flying solo for the last five months, shooting her second feature film, a docu-fiction set in the world of bullfighting, with just a Super 8 camera in Andalusia. “I did everything myself. I didn’t have a crew, but by choice, because I wanted to experience the same solitude as a torero,” she said.


Casta recently finished shooting “The Lovaganza Convoy: Part 2 — The Prophecy,” part of a trilogy of movies coming out next summer ahead of an event taking place in more than 50 cities worldwide. She plays a schoolteacher in the adventure film set during World War II.


“She’s a young mother. Her husband has gone to war and she no longer expects him back, and she is going to fall in love during the war,” said the actress, who is the younger sister of Laetitia Casta.


French actress and L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador Leïla Bekhti, accompanied by director and actress Géraldine Nakache, stopped in barely long enough to pose for pictures. “I can’t stay, I’m headed to the movies,” Nakache said with an apologetic shrug.

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