By Michele Leight
The Gagosian Gallery on 21st Street in New
York was glowing at a press preview with beautiful artworks donated
by leading contemporary artists for (AUCTION) Red that will take
place at Sotheby's New York on Valentines Day, February 14, 2008
at 7 PM. The paint was still fresh on some of the canvases, the
pigment dazzling, a compelling reminder of the creative process.
"Red," the color of love, is a recurring
theme at this ground-breaking exhibition and auction, and it is
not coincidental. The exhibition is on view from February 4 to
February 13 at The Gagosian Gallery. "(AUCTION) Red"
is expected to realize between $21 million to $29 million, and
will benefit The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,
specifically for treatment and medications for women and children
living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
After being approached by Bono, the activist
and lead singer of the rock group U2, Damien Hirst contacted over
100 artists and asked them to contribute works for the auction
inspired by the color red. The response was overwhelming.
Among the artists that donated paintings, sculpture
and works in mixed media are Matthew Barney (b. 1967), Banksy
(b. 1975), Fred Tomaselli (b. 1956), Jasper Johns (b. 1930), Tom
Friedman (b. 1965), Sir Howard Hodgkin (b. 1932), George Baselitz
(b. 1938), Francesco Clemente (b. 1952), Cecily Brown (b. 1969),
Subodh Gupta (b. 1964), Anish Kapoor (b. 1954), Julian Schnabel,
Sean Scully (b. 1945), Ghada Ahmer (b. 1963), Robert Rauschenberg,
Andreas Gursky (b. 1955), Marc Quinn (b. 1964), Ed Ruscha (b.
1937), Richard Prince (b. 1949), Willem de Kooning (1904-1977),
Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Chuck Close , Takashi Murakami (b. 1962),
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945), among many others, all of them well known.
"The effort of these artists is considerable,
the impact immeasurable" said Bono.
Artists have always pushed boundaries and blazed
a trail through conventional thinking; but it is a vital step
forward that Bono, a legendary musical artist and activist, and
Damien Hirst, one of the most incisive and often controversial
contemporary artists in the world, (a good sign), have teamed
up with other artists to organize the most important charity auction
at Sotheby's of Contemporary Art ever, with the support of (RED),
Sothebys and The Gagosian Gallery.
Damien Hirst's heart shaped painting "All
You Need Is Love," says it all, and his pill cabinet
"Where There's a Will There's a Way," filled
with HIV antiretroviral drugs for the treatment of HIV, is especially
strong. Millicent Willner, Director of Gagosian Gallery London
"Damien's commitment to this project has
been tremendous and his enthusiasm has inspired other great artists
to give truly exciting and impressive works. The (RED) exhibition
and auction highlight the best of art being made today and we
are delighted to contribute to this worthy cause."
Hirst has contributed seven works to the auction
valued at over $9 million. All the artists have donated their
work outright for this auction, which is expected to realize $21
million to $29 million. The sale total was $42.5 million.
"I remember when I couldn't give my art
away; it wasn't long ago either," said Hirst. "What
is there left to say? Money is a key and what we raise from this
auction will make a huge difference for a lot of people. For a
relatively small amount of effort on each artists part we can
actually save man lives. it's great to be able to give something
back and make a difference."
"Look at this list of names," said
Bono, "This the best collection of art from the best artists
in the world. I love art for art's sake but what we have here
is a real moment in art history. Damien is being too modest. The
effort of these artists is considerable, the impact immeasurable.
His "Where There's a Will There's a Way" provides
the neatest, completest metaphor: a pill-becomes-art-becomes-a-pill,
that's as close to framing saving a life as you're going to get."
The "pill cabinet" and "HIV
Aids, Drugs Combination," illustrated in this review, by
Damien Hirst, captures a bizarre phenomenon - a cocktail that
can keep millions of people with AIDS alive ((for 40 cents a day),
but most of them cannot afford the miracle drugs. So, they suffer
and die, with spouses, children and families standing by helplessly
- when the medications exist.
Millions more are at risk for HIV/AIDS for
this reason, helpless against the power elites that control their
fate that have yet to pull out of reverse gear and turn the tide
on this humanitarian disaster. Often, those who die from AIDS
(because they cannot afford the meds) leave behind orphaned children.
In Africa alone there are a staggering 11.4 million of them. Affordable
medications are critical to pushing the HIV/AIDS epidemic back,
even here in the US: which makes (AUCTION) Red really imporant.
While great strides have been made in the US
and other industrialized nations to intervene so that babies do
not become infected with the HIV virus, (that causes AIDS), babies
in developing nations are in still at risk, unless their mothers
receive anti-retroviral medications. Back in 2000, I wrote my
first report about the AIDS pandemic, and in it I said a baby
with AIDS is the greatest atrocity in the world - because it is
entirely preventable. Eight years have passed, and babies
are still being born with HIV/AIDS because their parents cannot
afford antiretroviral medications.
We live in a time of awesome medical achievements,
and life saving medications, but according to an Oxfam Briefing
Paper "Investing for Life," 85% of the world's population
is being priced out of the market, and millions of them are
at risk for or already have HIV/AIDS. This is a situation no historian
or humanitarian of the past could have conceived or predicted.
In sharp contrast to those who could help change
the status quo but choose not to are the movers and shakers on
the opposite side of the fence, notably Bono, who has harnessed
his fame on behalf of the voiceless millions that cannot afford
AIDS medications. A visionary, Bono favors a positive, creative
approach to raising awareness for this modern health and humanitarian
disaster, his music being the most obvious example, but recently
also through his powerful participation in (PROJECT) RED, of which
(AUCTION) Red is a part.
What is (RED)?
Bono and Bobby Shriver founded (RED) in response
to to the 22.5 million people in Africa living with HIV/AIDS,
the continent the hardest hit by the virus - representing 10%
of the world's population, but with a disproportionately large
infection rate (69%). At present 33.2 million live with the disease
globally. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa, with
roughly 4,400 people dying every day. Sadly, women make up almost
61% of adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, so they -
and inevitably their children - are the hardest hit by the disease.
The survival of these endangered children becomes more likely
whenever an adult begins AIDS treatment, including antiretroviral
drugs. Almost 2000 children are infected with HIV each day, most
within sub-Saharan Africa.
11.4 million children have been orphaned thus
far, and this number is growing. It costs only 40 cents to fund
the two pills (illustrated in Damien Hirsts painting) that keeps
someone with HIV in Africa alive - which also enables children
to continue to have parents to support and protect them. To date,
70% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than
two dollars a day and cannot afford this vital medication. AIDS
is a preventable, treatable disease in Africa if the means exist
to buy and administer the medicine that is needed.
(RED) engages business and consumer power to
do this, providing people with the chance to stay alive, care
for their families and continue to be valued contributors to their
community - through the purchase of the two pills a day, and the
support regime, they need to stay alive.
Oprah's show for the launch of (RED) in the
US in October 2006 made a lasting impression, when, accompanied
by an elated Bono (who bought a pair of snazzy "RED"
Armani "shades"), she went on a televised shopping spree,
and bought a clutch of (RED) IPods, among many other wonderful
Immediately afterwards, crimson "RED"
products and clothing mushroomed in stores across the United States.
Red sweat shirts at the GAP, slick red IPods and Motorola RAZRS,
red Dell computers, red Converse sneakers, and other Microsoft,
Armani, Hallmark and American Express (UK) products sporting the
(RED) brand label made a powerful statement. For the first time,
simply buying something in a retail store helped others get medicines
in Africa who were trying to fight a deadly virus, AIDS. The highly
publicized, global launch of (RED) took place in the UK earlier
in March of 2006. (RED) products are visible all over the world
today, an ingenius marketing concept, with "heart" built
into its strategy.
The businesses and corporations mentioned above
are the current partners in the (RED) brand, designed to engage
business and consumer power in the fight against AIDS in Africa.
(RED) works with the world's best brands to make unique (PRODUCT)
RED-branded products, and direct up to 50% of their gross profits
to the Global Fund to invest in African AIDS programs with a focus
on women and children. (RED) is not a charity or "campaign".
It is an economic initiative that aims to deliver a sustainable
flow of private sector money to the Global Fund.
Since its launch in March 2006, (RED) has generated
almost $58 million for The Global Fund - more than
eleven times the amount that businesses have contributed to The
Global Fund since it was founded in 2002. This money is currently
at work on the ground in Africa, providing antiretroviral treatment
for HIV positive individuals, funding HIV prevention programs,
feeding and educating children orphaned by AIDS, and providing
the low-cost treatments needed to reduce the risk of transmission
of HIV from mother to child.
"(RED) keeps being so innovative, "
said Dr. Michael Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global
Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, "the RED auction
is a wonderful idea, the list of artists incredibly impressive.
In one year, (RED) has become one of the key donors to the Global
Fund, helping thousands of AIDS patients access life-saving treatment
in Africa. This is truly solidarity without borders."
Since its creation in 2002 The Global Fund
- the recipient of (RED) funds - has become the worlds pre-eminent
funder of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which
collectively kill over six million people each year. It provides
over 20% of all international finance against AIDS and two-thirds
of global financing for TB and malaria. The Global Fund has committed
over $8.4 billion to life saving programs in 136 countries, that
has so far provided AIDS treatment for 1.1 million people, tuberchulosis
treatment for 2.9 million people, and distribution of 30 million
insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria worldwide.
The Global Fund directs (RED) dollars to specific
AIDS programs in Africa with a focus on women and children. It
is a performance based funder, continuing to fund only programs
whose results and expenditures meet ongoing verification by financial
auditors. 100% of the (RED) money is put to work on the ground
in these grants. Global fund (RED) grants are among the best performing
programs within the Global Funds extensive portfolio of AIDS grants
in Africa, ensuring that every dollar raised is translated into
lives saved, and that every life saved is accounted for. As with
all Global Fund grants, performance and financial accountability
in these grants are continuously verified, so that Global Fun-fundedprograms
receive funding only when expenditures and results have been approved
by financial auditors who work with the grants in-country.
The Global Fund is a unique, global public-private
partnership governed by representatives of governments, the private
sector, civil society and affected communities from all over the
world, with an innovative, performance-based approach to international
health financing. It enables countries to design and execute their
own programs, but provides funds only on the basis of technical
feasability, performance and proven results. The Global Fund is
a lean institution with operating costs of 3%, (not applicable
to (RED) Funds), ensuring that resources go directly to where
they are needed most. The Global Fund continues to seek sustainable,
additional resources from all sectors to continue scaling up the
support for life saving work around the world.
The United Nations Foundation was created in
1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner's historic
$1 billion gift to support United Nations causes. The Foundation
acts to to meet the most urgent challenges of the 21st century
through grantmaking and by building new and innovative public-private
partnerships. It also works to strengthen the US-UN relationship
and broaden support for the UN through public education, advocacy
Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby's Chairman of Contemporary
Art for Europe, and Oliver Barker, Sotheby's Senior Specialist
of Contemporary Art in London said:
"We are so proud to be involved in such
an extraordinary, fresh and original project and to be able to
suport (RED) and the Global Fund. Many of the most creative and
spirited artists working in the world today have been exceptionally
generous with their donations and we look forward to an historic
Bono has been a tireless advocate for the faceless,
voiceless, endangered millions that cannot take on the powers
that control their fate, and the fate of millions of children
that are too beautiful in spirit to understand how callous human
beings can be. Thankfully, now these children can see that there
are those who care.
The (Auction) RED catalog is a keepsake, filled
with the work of giants of contemporary art who have taken the
time to support this worthy cause, with Damien Hists blue butterflies
fluttering on a red background on the cover. In the introduction
to the catalog Bono writes:
"I have a friend in the US Congress, Tom
Lantos, a Hungarian Jew who as a child was sent to a concentration
camp on the train with his family. Years later his dreams were
haunted not by the spectres he encountered in those dead spaces
- under the Nazi jackboot - but rather by the blank stares of
his neighbors, the bystanders who had watched them being put on
the train. The people who never asked where the trains were going,
but even as a child he sensed they knew it wasn't anywhere that
they would want to go."
Like Bono, Hirst and other outspoken advocates
for those people that are suffering with HIV/AIDS, it is necessary
for us ordinary citizens and bystanders to make a lot more noise
if the cost of AIDS medications is to come down for people that
cannot afford them - a staggering 85% of the world's population,
including millions in The United States.
Closing the gap between the "haves and
have-nots" has never been easy. Historically, those with
the power and profits hold on to them, fiercely, but there has
never been quite such an imbalance between the ability to conquer
a disease, and not being able to do it - for all the wrong reasons
- as there is today with HIV/AIDS.
It takes a wondeful collaboration like this
auction to show the world how to roll back the negativity and
inertia, and turn inaction into results.
I really would like to own Damien Hirst's "All
You Need is Love," or his "Beautiful Red Spin
Painting," (estimate $600,000-800,000), but if that is
not an option I would be happy with a juicy (RED) IPod for Valentines
Day. When I listen to my favorite tunes, I will think that the
proceeds from its sale will probably preserve the life of one
treasured mom or dad for a child in Africa. That is amazing.
If you think your little purchase of a (RED)
T shirt or sweatshirt will not make a difference - just remember
that (RED) has delivered a whopping $58 million to The Global
Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberchulosis and Malaria so far - and still
counting, every sngle day. That money represents millions of ordinary
folk like us making a huge difference shopping.
It is mind-blowing to think about the difference
this single auction will make for so many people that really need
help in Africa.
"(AUCTION) Red" is by ticket only
at Sotheby's, 1334 York Avenue, New York, on February 14th - Valentine's
Day - at 7 PM. So please reserve your seat and your paddle! This
is a great way to show your love for art and for humanity - a
book by Michele Leight, founder of Ashraya-New York, available
now on www.amazon.com, seeks to
raise awareness about risky behavior, health, poverty and AIDS