Project Perpetual, Jeff Koons, and the United Nations Are Partnering Up to Fund Vaccination

Earlier today, we heard that artist Jeff Koons is teaming up with something called Project Perpetual for a series of sculptures featuring Birkin bags. The sculptures are slated to be auctioned off for charity — but what exactly is Project Perpetual? There are a lot of terms and organizations involved, so to de-mystify it, here’s your primer on everything you need to know about it: Project Perpetual’s goals, what the United Nations Foundation has to do with it, how Shot@Life fits into the whole picture, who’s supporting it, and more.

What’s This Project Perpetual Thing I Keep Hearing About?

It’s a brand new philanthropy initiative that seeks to raise both awareness and funds for important causes by harnessing the creative power of iconic artists and the pieces they create. There’s a bigger picture, too, geared towards bringing about positive, lasting change in the world: The aim, states the Project Perpetual website, “is no less than to change the conversation, to shift views and by so doing, save lives.” This is its inaugural year; here’s hoping there are many more years to come.

OK, Cool. But Why Is It Called “Project Perpetual?”

My understanding is that the initiative gets its name from the process through which it functions. It all starts with donations — what a press release issued by the initiative calls “the giving away of possessions held to be precious.” The release continues, “By parting with something they would rather keep, well-known people are, in a sense, giving of their emotions, memories, and thoughts” — all of which imbue the process with meaning. Then, artists take those objects and turn them into something even more precious (“of yet greater value"). The resulting pieces of art are then auctioned off to raise funds for good causes. From there, the hope is for the media attention garnered by the art and the fundraising to inspire influencers to add their voices in support. If each previous section powers the next, it all kind of works like a perpetual motion machine, no?

Here’s how it all breaks down specifically for this year's project: The Birkin bags are the donation; Jeff Koons is the artist; and the sculptures Koons will create with the Birkins are the objects of “yet greater value” to be auctioned off.

What’s the United Nations Foundation Got to Do With It?

The causes the pieces of art created through Project Perpetual are meant to benefit? They’re all championed by the United Nations Foundation. The United Nations Foundation itself links the UN’s work with others around the world; by connecting people, ideas, and resources, it helps the UN tackle and solve global issues ranging from climate change to poverty eradication.

Got It. So What’s Shot@Life, Then?

Shot@Life is the United Nations Foundation’s campaign geared towards getting much-needed vaccines to children in developing countries — and saving untold numbers of lives in the process. Every 20 seconds, a child dies from an illness that could have been prevented with a vaccine; Shot@Life aims to save as many of those children as possible, if not all of them.

It’s also the cause that this year’s Project Perpetual pieces will benefit: Project Perpetual will advocate for and fund vaccines, which will then be delivered by two of Shot@Life’s implementing partners, UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance.

Who’s Supporting This Whole Shebang?

Lots of people. Vanessa Paradis is one:

Claudia Schiffer is another:

And Kate Moss Is one, too:

Just to name a few.

What Can I Do to Help?

Spread the word about Project Perpetual! On social media, use the hashtag #VACCINATE. You can also donate directly to Shot@Life. Find out more at the Project Perpetual website, and go ahead and connect with the initiative on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr while you’re at it.

Images: projperpetual/Instagram (4); Giphy