By Michele Leight
Sothebys and Bergdorf-Goodman co-hosted
Art-Moves, a benefit auction May 8, 2000 attended
by many artists and prominent New Yorkers to benefit the Christopher
Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injury Project
at Rutgers University.
Christopher Reeve, the actor and chairman of
the board of the foundation, was the honored guest, and Chuck
Close, the artist and the chairman of the event's Art Committee,
spoke eloquently among others.
All proceeds of the live auction and a simultaneous
Internet auction (http://www.sothebys.com)
benefited the Foundation (http://www.paralysis.com)
and the Rutgers University unit.
Innovative philanthropy is what New York is
all about, and there was a lot of giving in the air at this event,
the first fine art auction for CURE/RUF, an organization which
raises funds for Spinal Cord Injury Research.
A smiling and animated Chuck Close, who donated
self-portraits, shown above and below, was in attendance for the
entire evening, surrounded by friends and colleagues.
Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of contemporary
art for Sothebys, conducted the live auction with style
Bergdorf-Goodman previewed works for the Internet
and Live Auction in eye-catching displays in their Fifth Avenue
windows from April 14 to April 25 and Sothebys hosted the
event in their spacious new seventh floor galleries.
Internet bidding commenced at 6.30 as hors
doeuvres and cocktails were offered to invited guests who
viewed works donated by 45 major artists, including Chuck Close,
Jasper Johns, Joel Shapiro, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein,
Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, Claes Oldenberg, Christo, Julian
Schnabel, Jeff Koons, Kiki Smith, Janet Price, Edward Ruscha,
William Wegman and Robert Mangold. The art committee including
Eric Fischl, April Gornick, Brice Marden, Sol Lewitt and Joel
Shapiro in addition to Mr. Close, and they all donated excellent
works of art for the event.
Benefit Committee co-Chairs for ART MOVES,
Bill and Clara Feltzin and Joann and Gary Katcher (President of
CURE) headed a powerhouse of committee members, including Serena
Boardman, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kravis, Ronald Lauder, Francine Lefrak,
Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, Dana Reeve,
Tara and Michael Rockefeller and Earle and Carol Mack. The Dealers
Committee included Mary Boone and Paula Cooper.
Amongst the many guests was Susan Howley, Executive
Vice President and Director of Research for the Christopher Reeve
Paralysis Foundation (CRPF). "I feel lucky to work with the
scientists at the CRPF and learn about what motivates them. They
carry the hopes of millions of people waiting for a cure,"
Co-chair for this event and President of CURE,
Gary Katcher, opened the Live Auction, and spoke of his brother
who, two months away from his 19th birthday suffered a gymnastics
accident and was paralyzed from the neck down; he passed away
after twenty years in a wheelchair, due to complications from
"As recently as ten years ago, people
with spinal cord injuries were told to have no hope. Today, hope
abounds. The worlds leading neuroscientists are now saying
that within the next three to five years there will be therapies
available to restore partial function in humans with spinal cord
injuries, and several years after that, to restore full function,"
Mr. Katcher wrote in the Art Moves catalogue.
Mr. Katcher warmly introduced Christopher Reeve,
best known for his acting role as "Superman" until he
suffered a riding accident that left him paralyzed. Instead of
staying out of the limelight after his accident, Christopher Reeve
has worked with drive, determination and enormous courage to bring
world-wide attention to the lives of the disabled by making public
appearances, attending and initiating fund-raisers, increasing
public awareness, advocating and promoting scientific research
and by speeches to Congress. He had to wait several minutes before
speaking at the auction until the thunderous applause and standing
ovation died down.
Mr. Reeve thanked all the artists for their
generous donations and the organizers of the event, especially
Chuck Close. He spoke movingly of the urgency of funds for research,
and of his efforts on behalf of disabled people, which he did
not understand until he became paralyzed himself, stressing that
small improvements along the way make a meaningful difference
in their day to day lives, as well as the big goal he has of walking
The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
(CRPF), which merged with the American Paralysis Association (APA)
in April, 1999, encourages and supports research to develop effective
treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury
and other central nervous system disorders. CRPF evaluates and
selects these research programs using councils of internationally
renowned neuroscientists and clinicians. CRPF also allocates a
portion of its resources to grants that improve the quality of
life for people with disabilities.
A humorous and witty Chuck Close spoke next,
saying with a wide grin that he understood what it felt like to
be a painting waiting to swing round on the giant display turntable
usually reserved for artworks scary! He joked about competing
with Christopher Reeves for the disabled parking space at Sothebys
and asked the audience to write the Mayor for more parking spaces
for the disabled in the city.
In a heartfelt tribute to the other artists
who donated so generously to ART MOVES for CURE,
Mr. Close said "I am moved by what each artist has given
artists are the great 'soft touch' of charity,
they give with nothing in return, no deductions, nothing."
He asked the bidders to understand that they were supporting vital
research, and reminded them of the extremely high caliber of the
art in the auction "Feel good and have art,"
Chuck Close donated a silk-screen "Self
Portrait, 2000," and a rare colored pencil on paper self-portrait
"Untitled, 1999,"estimated at $75,000 which sold for
$115,000 in the Live Auction (both courtesy of the artist and
PaceWildenstein, New York), the highest paid for an art work in
the Live Auction.
April Gorniks "Edge of the Pond,
2000," fetched $13,000 with a $12,500 estimate (courtesy
of the artist). Brice Mardens ink drawing "Untitled,"
1986, went for $11,000 (courtesy of the artist and the Matthew
Marks Gallery, New York). Joel Shapiros bronze sculpture,
a small but beautiful piece, "Untitled," 1999-2000 drew
applause when it fetched $45,000 (courtesy of the artist and PaceWildenstein)
Tobias Meyer is to be greatly commended for
not letting up on bidders "out to get a bargain" and
reminded them of the extremely high quality of the donated works
several times during the live auction. He cajoled and charmed
and stood his ground: "
Go on, one more, its for
there is no premium, never forget that
until Eric Fischls glowing watercolor "Untitled (Woman
Dancing), 2000, went past its estimate of $25,000, and sold for
$26,000 (courtesy of the artist). Sol Lewitts gouache on
paper, "Parallel Curves," 1999, fetched $7,500, rounding
out a highly successful grand total from the Art Committee members
Other notable items in the Live Auction were
John Chamberlains wonderful painted chrome and steel "Grass
Skirt #9," 1993, for $31,000 (courtesy of the artist and
Prudence Fairweather), shown below; Roy Lichtensteins whimsical
painted cast aluminum "Small House," 1997, for $95,000
(courtesy of Dorothy Lichtenstein); Robert Rauschenbergs
gorgeous " Luxer (Urban Bourbon)," 1988, for $80,000
(courtesy of the artist), shown above; and Robert Mangolds
elegant acrylic and pencil on canvas "Red Orange/Gray Zone
Ptg. C.," 1998, another clear favorite with Tobias Meyer,
who was visibly delighted when it fetched a hefty $55,000 (courtesy
of the artist and PaceWildenstein, New York).
The arts have always played a major role in
healing the spirit, and Christopher Reeve and Chuck Close are
proof that what may suddenly, without warning, affect the body,
cannot take away from the spirit. "Art moves us, thats
why we love it," said Chuck Close.
The auction was a great success; the Live Auction
achieved $420,000 and the Internet auction, which went on long
after the Live auction, achieved $127,710, for a total of $547,710.
There are about 250,000 Americans with spinal
cord injuries and about 11,000 Americans receive such injuries
every year, 82 percent of them male and 56 percent of the injuries
occurring to people between the ages of 16 and 30.
Vehicle accidents account for 37 percent of
the spinal cord injuries, violence, which is the most rapidly
increasing cause, accounts for 28 percent, falls for 21 percent,
sports for only 6 percent and 8 percent are other causes.
For educators and parents with young athletic
children, or rambunctious sons, the statistics plead for caution
and for increasing the awareness of adults and children. The costs
associated with disability are frightening, considering that only
52% of all spinal cord injured individuals are covered by private
health insurance at the time of injury.
Average lifetime costs of paraplegics aged
25 at time of injury are $428,000 and quadriplegics aged 25 at
time of injury $1.35 million. The first year expenses for a SCI
injury, all categories, is $198,000.
There is hope for the disabled. Some animals
with spinal cord injuries have been reported to be able to move
limbs again and researchers are making progress in fixing damaged
extensions of nerve cells and getting them to grow.
Christopher Reeve hopes to walk - or at least
stand - by his 50th birthday, September 2002, and his faith is
grounded in real science. The researchers and world-renowned scientists
on his foundations Science Advisory Councils are doing amazing
things every day. Meanwhile, he keeps his body fit, ready for
the day he may be able to stand, or walk. He believes recovery
will go to the fittest.
His foundation's Research Consortium was launched
in 1995 by the American Paralysis Association that merged in 1999
with his foundation, and the consortium is intended to bring togher
the interdisciplinary strategies of eight distinguished neuroscientists.
The spinal cord is an extremely complex tissue
with many different cell types. Different injury models, or even
different preparations using the same model, may exhibit very
different cellular deficits and this makes comparison between
laboratories often difficult and the foundation believes it has
hampered approaches to the problem.
The consortium's principal investigators, each
funded annually by the foundation, are Dr. Ira B. Black of the
UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.,
Dr. Mary B. Bunge of the Miami (Fla.) Project to Cure Paralysis,
Dr. Dennis W. Choi of the Washington University Medical Center
in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Carl W. Cotman of the University of
California at Irvine, Dr. Fred H.Gage of the Salk Institute in
La Jolla, Calif., Dr. Lorne M. Mendell of the State University
of New York at Stony Brook, Dr. Luis F. Parado of the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and Dr. Martin
E. Schwab of the University of Zurich.
Drs. Bunge, Gage and Schwab are known for their
pioneering work on the spinal cord. Dr. Bunge and her colleagues
are working with transferring peripheral nerve cells from the
leg and putting them in the spines of injured animals with considerable
success and have discovered that cells that line the nose can
work as "chaperones" to guide the nerve cells to the
right target. Dr. Schwab first identified an inhibitory protein,
Nogo, in 1989 that is considered an important key in nerve cell
regeneration and he and his colleagues have developed an antibody
that blocks Nogo and promotes cell growth. Drs. Black, Chois,
Cotman and Parado have done important research on the brain and
will now focus their strategies on the spinal cord. Dr. Mendell
is an expert in spinal cord electrophysiology.
The consortium is focusing on defining the
molecular and cellular properties in the chronic spinal cord injury
model, identifying ways to promote nerve cell functions and regrowth
of axons, and identifying ways to replace nerve cells lost after
The spinal cord is a central highway for signals
traveling from the brain to the rest of the body. A spinal cord
injury can disrupt activity and sensation in all tissues below
the damage. Christopher Reeve has a tiny injury in his neck between
the first and second vertebra. Injury in the neck area can wipe
out control over most of the body and often requires the use of
a respirator. Fixing the internal phone lines so that the brain
and spine can communicate again is the name of the game for research
Dr. Fred Gage, the chairman of the Science
Advisory Council at CRPF, and his colleagues made international
headlines for their discovery that the adult human brain generates
new cells, contradictory to the long-held view that aging or diseased
brain cells could not be replaced. This has wide implications
for other neurological disorders like strokes, Parkinsons
Disease, and Alzheimers Disease. Dr. Gage has also pioneered
techniques for using genetically engineered cells to deliver growth-stimulating
agents to spur nerve cell regeneration in animals with spinal
Back in 1988, Dr. Schwab, also with the SAC
at CRPF, isolated substances in the central nervous system, which
deliberately block growth, called NOGOs. In a healthy spine,
the chemicals establish boundaries that regulate cell growth.
After an injury, they become "bad guys" and harm. In
recent years Schwab has developed antibodies that neutralize these
growth blockers, allowing regeneration to take place. The antibody
that blocks NOGO then promotes healthy cell growth.
Dr. Wise Young, Director of the new Spinal
Cord Research Center at Rutgers University is also an investigator
with the CRPF Consortium. "We have just entered a new millennium.
That shift marks an equally significant transformation in attitudes
toward spinal cord injuries," Dr. Young wrote in the ART
MOVES catalogue. "Following centuries of total hopelessness,"
he continued, "today the vast majority of scientists in the
field believe that feeling and function can be restored. The question
in the hearts of those who are paralyzed is, of course, 'When?'
Sadly, it is money that will determine the answer. Funding at
today's level permit only sequential testing of promising therapies.
Increased funds will allow simultaneous tests and the acceleration
of the availability of practical applications."
Chuck Close said it best art does move
us. Art "moving" us to support science is pretty cool
too. In his dreams Christopher Reeve sees himself moving and he
believes he will walk or stand again. For those out there who
are disabled and dare not "dream the impossible dream"
that they will walk again keep a close watch on Christopher
Reeve. He might just prove to you that you will.
The foundation's next major fund-raiser is
"First You Dream...A Tribute to Courage," which will
honor Christopher Reeve and Bran Pace with a gala performance
at 7:30 PM, June 12, at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York
benefiting the Actors' Fund of America's Catastrophic Care Program
and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Co-chairs include
Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, Liza Minnelli,Glen
Close and John Travolta.
The Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Rutgers has
a general information telephone number: 732-445-2061.
The telephone number of Art Moves is 212-344-8420
and its E-Mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the remarkable work
these scientists are doing go to the excellent Christopher Reeve
Paralysis Foundation website at http://www.paralysis.org
and click on the interviews with CRPF supported scientists. It
is pretty magical stuff. The foundation's phone number is 800-225-0292.