NEW YORK - Tonight, on the evening of Valentine’s Day, over $40 million was raised to fight AIDS in Africa in an historic auction - the most significant charity auction of Contemporary Art ever - organized by Bono, Damien Hirst, Sotheby’s, Gagosian Gallery and dozens of donating artists in the (RED) Auction. The proceeds will go the United Nations Foundation to support HIV/AIDS relief programs in Africa conducted by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Bono opened the auction with an a capella rendition of “All You Need Is Love” before a star-studded crowd, including 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, who purchased Francesco Clemente’s Red Flower on Scorched Earth for $170,500 (lot 61, est. $50/70,000). The auction achieved $42.58 million, far beyond its high estimate (est. $21/29 million), and records were set for seventeen artists, including Marc Quinn, Banksy, Howard Hodgkin, Keith Tyson and Bernar Venet. 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 (lot 54, est. $5/7 million). The sale had been preceded by a preview exhibition of the works at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea.
Damien Hirst contacted dozens 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.
Damien Hirst himself contributed seven works to the auction, which together made a spectacular total of $19,085,000. In addition to There’s A Will, There’s A Way, the highlights were a red rectangular butterfly painting entitled Love You, which sold for $3,300,000 (lot 53, est. $1/1.5 million) and a red heart-shaped butterfly painting entitled All You Need is Love, which brought $2,420,000 (lot 16, est. $1/1.5 million).
"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.”
Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said: “What is particularly exciting about tonight is that in addition to being a major art event, every dollar generated will help the Global Fund purchase life-saving AIDS treatment in sub-Saharan Africa.
On behalf of the Global Fund and the people we serve, thank you to everyone here tonight – (RED), Damien Hirst and all of the artists who contributed, Sotheby’s, and all the buyers.”
Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Senior Specialist of Contemporary Art in London, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the phenomenal total of over $40 million that was raised tonight for AIDS in Africa. It was an extraordinary evening.” Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art for Europe, continued: “The real stars of tonight are the artists who so generously gave their works to benefit this worthy cause.”
Larry Gagosian of Gagosian Gallery added: “The results speak for themselves. If you put together great artists who have created highly desirable works for a worthy cause, success will inevitably follow. I commend Damien, Bono and all the artists on this incredible achievement.”