|In one extraordinary evening, The Red Auction held at Sotheby’s on Valentine’s Day 2008 has helped relieve suffering in Africa and become the most significant charity auction of Contemporary Art ever.
A resounding success, the auction exceeded its high estimate of $29 million, raising $42.58 million. Records were set for seventeen artists, including Marc Quinn, Banksy, Howard Hodgkin, Keith Tyson and Bernar Venet. Proceeds are going to the United Nations Foundation to support HIV/AIDS relief programs in Africa.
The auction was organized by Bono, Damien Hirst, Sotheby’s, Gagosian Gallery and dozens of donating artists in the (RED) Auction. Damien Hirst contacted many of the world’s leading artists to ask them to contribute works for the auction inspired by the colour red and the concept of love. Their response was exceptional, with offers of major works Matthew Barney, Georg Baselitz, Cecily Brown, Douglas Gordon, Antony Gormley, Subodh Gupta, Andreas Gursky, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Gary Hume, Jasper Johns, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Marc Newson, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Richard Prince, Marc Quinn, Ed Ruscha, Yinka Shonibare, Sam Taylor-Wood, Keith Tyson and Bernar Venet, among others.
The auction was attended by Queen Noor, John McEnroe, Takashi Murakami, Martha Stewart, Dennis Hopper, Michael Stipe, Helena Christensen, Liya Kebede, Russell Simmons, Brian Williams, Ziyi Zhang, Ed Burns and Christy Turlington.
Bono opened the auction with a capella rendition of “All You Need Is Love”. Among the many highlights of the evening was Damien Hirst’s Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way, a pill cabinet which is filled with HIV antiretroviral drugs for the treatment of HIV, which sold for $7,150,000. Damien Hirst himself contributed seven works to the auction, which together achieved a stunning total of $19,085,000.
"This is incredible! Art and love, sex and money came together tonight to make this Valentine's Day one that we at (RED) will never forget,” said Bono. “Because tonight we got serious about love, and not just the love of art, but the love of our brothers and sisters suffering from AIDS in the poorest places on the planet. What's the price of saving a life? Forty cents a day can buy the two little pills that keep people with HIV/AIDS alive. So you do the math ... A $100,000 sculpture... a $1.5 million
painting... that's a lot of medicine for a lot of people in Africa who can't afford the drugs we can get at any Duane Reade. Damien Hirst had the vision to turn pills into art and now that art will be turned into actual medicine for millions of people.”
Damien Hirst said, “It’s an amazing result, it’s not sunk in yet but it just shows you what you can do if you put your mind to it. I'm never going to be cynical ever again for a while. A big thank you and a million out of ten for all the artists who gave something. We've helped to change the world a little bit.”