Art market

Charitable Art Auction sale features Brit pack

Artists for the environment


One of the downsides of artistic success is being bombarded with requests to donate works to the ever multiplying plethora of charity auctions.

However, there is no indication of charity-fatigue in the formidable line-up of major pieces donated by some of the art world’s most important international figures to Art Action, an auction in aid of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) which takes place at Sotheby’s in London on 5 December.

Among the 36 lots are a unique stainless steel sculpture by Antony Gormley estimated at £40,000-60,000; a new bronze from Louise Bourgeois (estimate £20,000-25,000); Damien Hirst’s “Beautiful, charity, painting” 2001, a spin painting with an estimate of £50,000-70,000; one of his own artist proofs of “The last supper” 1999, 13 screen prints estimated at £15,000-20,000 and a marble and resin sculpture by Kiki Smith estimated at £15,000-18,000.

“The response has been extraordinary” says auction co-ordinator Julia Royse. “We’ve been given things by people you don’t normally expect to hear from, such as Bill Viola and Louise Bourgeois.”

There’s no doubt that the EJF–which is devoted to empower people in the world’s poorest countries to protect their environments and to defend their human rights—is a very worthy cause and deserving of widespread support. All the funds raised by Art Action will go directly into a pilot programme in Cambodia, which aims to train, equip and support over 1,000 companies and individuals, over 10 years, in the techniques and tools needed both to document and to expose environmental abuses while at the same time creating the solutions to them.

“EJF makes a direct link between the need for environmental security and the defense of basic human rights, which in most of the world’s poorer countries go hand in hand” says Steve Trent, director of EJF.

A major contributory factor in whipping up this extraordinary wave of artistic generosity has been the role of sculptor Rachel Whiteread as the Foundation’s patron.

Not only has Whiteread lent her support to the EJF from its earliest beginnings, but she has also donated two major works: a plaster and resin model of her “plinth” sculpture currently installed in Trafalgar Square which is estimated at £30,000-40,000; and another unique new cast work valued at £65,000-75,000. “As an artist I am very often asked to support good causes and it is impossible for me to fulfil all these requests,” says Whiteread. “But EJF is different. Its work is focused, direct and effective.”

Other contributing artists agree. “I’m glad to be participating in this auction,” says Susan Hiller, whose set of five c-prints carries an estimate of £5,000- 7,000, “Especially after recent events have sharpened my awareness of a need to be more involved in the economic plight of others which we in the West have unwittingly or unwillingly contributed to.”

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Artists for the environment'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 120 December 2001