Private galleries give some profits to public health organisations battling coronavirus

Hauser & Wirth is donating 10% of profits from its online exhibitions to “both local and global causes” as part of its new #artforbetter initiative

Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot on the rooftop of Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street, February 2020 Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

A number of commercial galleries, including blue-chip dealer Hauser & Wirth, have pledged to donate a portion of their income to public health-related causes in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Hauser & Wirth, which runs nine galleries worldwide, will donate 10% of profits from its online exhibitions to “both local and global causes” as part of its new #artforbetter initiative.

The first beneficiary is the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, a global non-profit which tracks the spread of the virus and funds research for coronavirus tests and a vaccine.

The philanthropic venture begins later this week with the launch of an online show dedicated to the US artist George Condo (Drawings for Distanced Figures), followed by solo exhibitions of new work by Lorna Simpson and Rashid Johnson. In May 2018, Condo’s Nude and Forms painting (2014) fetched $6.1m with fees at Christie’s New York; Lorna Simpson’s fibreglass piece Ellipsis (2019) sold for $425,000 at Art Basel last year.

George Condo in his studio with his work Linear Contact (2020) © George Condo. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

“Our new initiative #artforbetter is now a central part of our longstanding philanthropic framework at the gallery, and it will reach beyond this moment,” say the gallery’s presidents—Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot—in a statement.

Meanwhile, two London galleries say they will donate part of their profits to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), whose staff are at the forefront of the coronavirus crisis. Hofa gallery (House of Fine Art) in Mayfair says that proceeds from the sale of a work by Bran Symondson and Terry O’Neill, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil (2019, priced at £14,000), will go towards the NHS. The piece will be included in the online group show Here and Now, due to launch 6 April.

McKay Williamson gallery will sell works by Paul Wright in aid of the NHS which the Leicester-born artist will create online (the first live stream session takes place 2 April). “Each painting will be auctioned off and funds raised will support care workers,” says a gallery statement. More artists are due to join the gallery’s so-called Fine Art Fever fundraising campaign.

UPDATE 2 April: James Hyman Gallery in London is hosting a special online fundraising sale (until 30 April) of photographs, paintings and prints by artists such as Bill Brandt, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Eduardo Paolozzi and Marc Quinn (all prices are listed, starting at £650).

"As everyone pulls together I have been thinking what I can do as an art dealer. I feel very helpless. What I have done is put together a selection of works by some of the major photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at reduced prices, and will donate all profits to the National Health Service," Hyman says in a statement.

Walker Evans, Flood Refugee in the Red Cross Temporary Infirmary of Forrest City, Arkansas (1937) courtesy James Hyman Gallery

UPDATE (8 April): Sid Motion Gallery in London is presenting a selection of recent works by Vincent Hawkins that will be sold to benefit the NHS purpose-built Nightingale Hospitals (25% of sales will be donated).