Christie’s has launched a three-part series of benefit sales starting on 25 April expected to raise $1m for Ukraine heritage and humanitarian relief to be distributed via the World Monuments Fund (WMF) and its Ukraine Heritage Response Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and CORE, actor Sean Penn’s aid organisation.
The initiative follows donations made by the auction house for Ukraine relief to the United Nations Refugee Agency and Red Cross and cancellation of its June Russian sales following Russia’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine. Sonya Bekkerman, Christie’s deputy chairman of business development tells The Art Newspaper that Ukraine “has been on so many of our minds across every industry”.
"Safeguarding the Irreplaceable: A Selling Exhibition to Benefit the Ukraine Heritage Response Fund at World Monuments Fund" will be held at Christie’s King Street from 25 April to 5 May and online through the end of May. The tri-part sale includes 86 paintings and drawings from the Peremen Collection of Ukrainian Avant Garde Artists, including Theophil Fraerman and Amshei Nurenberg, which will be presented as a single group; ten key Ukrainian Modernists, including Alexandra Exter and Oleksandr Bohomazov; and a selection of contemporary Ukrainian photographs and video works by artists in the diaspora including Boris Mikhailov and Ira Lupu, who was born in Odesa, which came under attack over the weekend.
It was curated by Dallas Contemporary’s Peter Doroshenko, “who has spent his life working with Ukrainian artists,” Bekkerman says. Consignors are donating a significant part of their profits and Christie’s a share of its commission.
The initiative aims “to help heritage professionals in Ukraine to lay the groundwork for future rehabilitation” as cultural losses mount.
“According to Unesco, since the invasion around 53 historical sites have sustained some kind of damage, including museums, monasteries, monuments and historic centers,” Bekkerman says. “So we’re taking a multi-pronged approach. We’re supporting humanitarian aid, but we’re also supporting cultural preservation. As an auction house we are using our platform as a positive force.”
The collection that Yakov Peremen managed to save from the Bolsheviks by shipping it to Palestine in 1919, illustrates the point. The artists represented in it worked in Paris and encountered Chagall, Matisse and Kandinsky.
“It’s such a beautiful dovetail with the World Monument Fund and cultural preservation in general that in times like these, in times of great difficulties, there are resourceful ways that art triumphs, that we save art for generations to come,” Bekkerman says.
The benefit for Médecins Sans Frontières will be held during Christie’s Marquee 20/21 Sales of 20th and 21st Century Art in May and will include a collection of donated works by Ukrainian and international artists such as Yoshimoto Nara’s caricature portraits of girls (with estimates of $100,000-$150,000 and $80,000-$120,000), Boris Mikhailov’s 1970s Soviet life series Yesterday’s Sandwich (est. $3,000-$5,000), and works by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov and Olafur Eliasson.
The donation to CORE will come from the sale of donated works by Kenny Scharf (Frackattack, est. $100,000-150,000) and Gina Beavers (Invisible Lip, est. $40,000-60,000).
Bekkerman says Christie’s expects “to attract buyers from across the globe” and continues to strictly observe sanctions regulations and export bans, “which now prohibit the sale of luxury goods to clients physically located in Russia or Belarus and prohibit the export (directly or indirectly) of luxury goods to any address in Russia or Belarus.”