Art 4 Aids Orphans' second success is not without its share of stress
by Kresta Tyler Johnson
The auction house Stephan Welz and Co in association with Sotheby's, hosted the second Art 4 Aids Orphans auction on October 18 in Johannesburg, raising over R1.1 million for various organisations to be administered by the Starfish Charity. Prestigious artists and institutions agreed to donate works for the auction, including national and international luminaries such as Sam Nhlengethwa, Lien Botha, Sue Williamson, Michael Meyersfeld, Jo Ractliff and Penny Siopis.
The initial auction was held in 2002 and raised a similar amount. Individuals in Cape Town, London and Johannesburg spent the last year collaborating on the organisation and preparation of the event.
Assistance in publicising the auction came from Marcus Brewster Publicity, and BOE Private Clients generously funded the publication of the catalogue, framing of the works, transportation and insurance. From the outside it seemed to operate smoothly, but insiders had a different perspective.
Beezy Bailey, a contributing artist and one of the organisers wrote, 'The difficult part came with the artists. In some cases, artists were bitterly disappointed with the values Sotheby's decided to put on their work. I must use this opportunity to point out that this was a charity event in an auction house and not a conventional sale of art through a gallery system. People should not lose sight of the fact that 100% of the money raised is going directly to Aids orphans.'
Despite the deluge that ensued during the evening, a fair crowd turned out and out of 107 lots only 14 were not sold. These included work by prominent artists such as David Goldblatt and Kendall Geers. Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan spoke at the evening about the importance of art in regard to the plight of over 1 million children who are Aids orphans.
A William Kentridge etching and Marlene Dumas work on paper reached the highest prices, each selling for R100 000. The Starfish Charity will be tasked with disseminating the monies to various organisations to assist as many orphans as possible.
Overall Bailey was satisfied with the results of the evening and while emotionally drained said, 'This is a life-long commitment and the problem is getting bigger not smaller.' Organisers are looking at 2007 to hold another auction, this time possibly in London.
Looking forward to a future event, Bailey wrote, 'I would have fewer South African artists and concentrate on work of a high quality in order to showcase the best of South African art and might play God just for a while in curating the auction instead of taking anything purely for the sake of raising money.' When you expend as much energy as he did on the project, it is easy to be sympathetic to these sentiments.
Nonetheless, projects and collaborations such as this, which utilise the prominence of art and culture to raise funds for those in need should be acknowledged for their work. The auction should be recognised not only for making major South African artists affordable to a larger audience, but for helping address the societal ills that currently plague South Africa.
If you are interested in reading more about the event, reviewing the catalogue of works or contributing by purchasing a work that was not sold, you may go online to www.art4aids.co.za