You know Damien Hirst: the man who created a platinum cast of a human skull studded with human teeth and encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, including a pear-shaped pink diamond; who submerged a 14ft tiger shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine; and made a 35ft sculpture of a pregnant woman whose insides, including foetus, muscle and tissue, show on one side. And everyone knows Bono, the frontman of one of the most successful bands in rock history. This V-Day, the duo will host the hottest party in New York.
Red brigade: Kapoor’s Red Homeland is estimated at above $80,000.
The (RED) Auction held by Sotheby’s rides on the back of the star power of Hirst and Bono and uses the most romantic day of the year for a good cause—to raise money for HIV/AIDS relief programmes in Africa. “We want to do the best we can with this auction. We’ve spent over a year in preparation for it,” says Oliver Barker, senior international specialist for contemporary art at Sotheby’s. “The best part about this auction is that you’re not only getting a fantastic piece of art, you will also be contributing to charity.”
It began with the handwritten letters. Hirst, one of the world’s most expensive living artists, personally wrote to close to 100 of his contemporaries around the world, including Subodh Gupta, and London-based Indian-born sculptor Anish Kapoor, to contribute works infused with the colour red. Their response brought together 79 works, including seven of Hirst’s, from artists such as Gupta, Kapoor, Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, and Georg Baselitz, among others. Gupta chose his tiffin-crusted painting with its dash of bright red, Sunday Lunch. “I was invited two months ago, and I think it’s important that they’ve chosen Valentine’s Day to send a message about AIDS,” says Gupta.
The estimate assigned to Gupta’s painting is between $180,000 and $250,000 (Rs72 lakh-Rs1 crore). Hirst will remain the largest contributor, with his works valued at more than $9 million.
The auction is led by (RED), a company that partners with international firms such as Apple, Gap, Armani and others to sell (RED) branded products; a portion of the sales proceeds are donated to The Global Fund, a Geneva-based NGO that fights AIDS, TB and malaria in Africa. “We’ve always tried different sorts of partnerships but this is the first time we’ve teamed up with Sotheby’s,” says Alexis Dormandy, the chairman of (RED) Europe. “We use a brand licensing format, and so far our relationships with various companies has raised $58 million for Global Fund.”
The lead-up to the auction is an exhibition at New York’s legendary Gagosian Gallery, where the works will be on show till auction day. The pre-auction party will be hosted by Anna Wintour, the US editor of Vogue, while the real celebrations are slated for the post-auction do at Sotheby’s in New York.
With an enviable collection of art even by general auction standards, this show is estimated to rake in millions. “(RED) works by creating value for the brands it ties up with, and in this case, we believe current estimates of $30 million are low; everyone assumes it will be close to $50 million,” says Dormandy. Now that’s got to be better than chocolates and teddy bears.