By Michele Leight
New York - On September 19, 201, actor/director and philanthropist Ben Stiller, gallerist and art dealer David Zwirner, and Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman, Post War and Contemporary Art Development at Christie's, held a press conference at Christie's to talk about the upcoming auction "Artists for Haiti" that will be held at Christie's Rockefeller Plaza galleries on September 22nd at 7 PM. The works are of superb quality, some given by legendary artist's (estates) such as Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois and Martin Kippenberger, others by famous contemporary artists like Jeff Koons, Urs Fishcher, Luc Tuymans, Francis Alys, Marlene Dumas, Neo Rausch, the one and only Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist, to name only some. Amy Cappellazzo said the works in this auction were representative of "the elder statesmen, and children of the art world."
Christie's catalogue for this sale offers background for this sale:
"In early 2011, actor, director, and philanthropist Ben Stiller joined together with gallerist and art dealer David Zwirner to organize Artists for Haiti, a major, high-profile art auction to be held at Christies in New York on September 22, 2011. Artists for Haiti, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, joins in the much needed humanitarian effort to raise significant funds for childrens education and health programs. All of the proceeds from this outstanding effort will go to support nonprofits and NGOs that are already performing extraordinary work on the ground in Haiti, including: Architecture for Humanity, Artists for Peace and Justice, Ciné Institute, Grameen Creative Lab, J/P HRO, Partners In Health, and The Stiller Foundation, among others."
Stiller, Zwirner and Cappellazzo were emphatic that the entire proceeds of 26 outstanding works of art by 25 of today's most prominent artists will directly benefit these non-profit groups, including Paul Farmer's "Partners in Health," which he co-founded. If you have not read "Mountains Beyond Mountains," please find a way to read this amazing book. Paul Farmer takes the idea that "one person can make a difference" to new heights. His work in Haiti has inspired grassroots afforts across the world, often among people confronted with unusually difficult circumstances, who cite him as their inspiration. Ben Stiller said after he read the book it made him want to do something:
"Haiti is very close to our country and the poorest country in the Western hemisphere," he said, and acknowledged that "the artists want to know how we are spending the money. There have been questions raised about the amount of money that has gone to Haiti. All this money will be accounted for."
Ben Stiller founded The Stiller Foundation in 2010, (www.thestillerfoundation.org), whose primary mission is to promote the education and well-being of children worldwide. Ben thanked David Zwirner for his help in this effort: "It is very tough to do something like this. David has asked the artists to make a very personal contribution."
"We had never seen such poverty, literally an hour away from Miami, where we would be sipping champagne," said David Zwirner. "People can't find bathrooms and clean water, and children cannot find schools. When Ben approached Paul Farmer about being a part of this effort, he said yes, which brought this benefit to a whole other level."
Zwirner said he would like to thank Microsoft , who helped create their website, www.artistsforhaiti.com
With good reason, Zwirner grew
emotional as he described the generosity of the artists that have
made this auction possible:
"When I went to see Ray (Raymond) Pettibone in his studio, and the painting he did for this auction, I saw a second 'wave" painting. Ray said 'you can have them both.' He also helped us design our logo."
Amy Cappellazzo said "this sale has generated so much buzz and excitement" and described it as an international project, with three works coming from important artist's estates: Martin Kippenberger, Dan Flavin and Louise Bourgeois.
"Steven Flavin, son of Dan Flavin, gave a major work of his father's from 1967. It is overwhelming to see it in this gallery. It is a really major work," said David Zwirner, adding: "Dealers were equally generous, very collegial, sending their clients to this sale."
"'Monument' for V. Tatlin, 1967,'" by Dan Flavin, is a spectacular "white" sculpture, with an estimate of $800,000-1,200,000. It sold for $950,000.
A special catalogue, with a text by Paul Farmer, co-founder of "Partners in Health," has been produced by Christie's, who have waived all commissions for this sale. Zwirner said he approached Francois Pinault about doing the auction at Christie's: "I am very grateful to him. He immediately said yes."
With Ben Stiller in the room there just had to be laughter, and there was lots of it. Mr. Stiller's films are among my favorites, and I am not alone. Laughter, joy, humor, are the best tonic in life. Standing beside Jeff Koon's "Bikini," he said "I just like to call it "thong" (laughter). Later, after several serious descriptions of artists works, Ben Stiller pointed to a camera crew's paraphernalia in one corner and said "And this called Video Crew Set-Up," (more laughter). One of his funniest lines was delivered with characteristic deadpan humor. Standing in front of Jasper Johns's "Untitled" circa 2009, ink on plastic, (illustrated), he said seriously:
"I have something important to say. Keep an eye on this guy's work..."
Aah! humor! Stiller described how much fun it was to meet Jeff Koons, visit his studio, and to see how he works. He also shared how the project began:
" Steve Martin is a friend of mine... (pause)...I like to be able to say that. Steve said include Neo (Rausch) and Luc (Tuymans) and 'you should go see David' (Zwirner). And that's how this started."
A representive from Partners in Health said they had been in Haiti for 25 years and now had 54 employees:
"Because we already had a prescence in Haiti we could move fast," (when the earthquake struck in 2010). He described how there was no intensive care unit - at all - in Haiti, and that they were in this for the long haul, ready to provide care to women and children especially. "Thanks to people here in the US, the biggest re-building effort, including a hospital, is underway in Haiti," he said. "The Hospital will be called Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital. This will be a teaching hospital, with 320 bed capacity, and an intensive care unit. If we train doctors in Haiti, they will stay there instead of going to Miami as soon as they get their degrees. Doctors do not want to be officiating over needless deaths," he said.
Ben stiller said: "I went to Haiti six months before the quake. After seeing such an extreme level of poverty I started a school...the schools also function as a feeding center and places to bathe..."
It is hard to imagine that barely an hour away from The United States there is a country with no intensive care unit, and that children go to bed hungry and have nowhere to bathe.
"Artists for Haiti" is expected to raise $10 million.
The auction was a great success, achieving $13,662,000, a record for a charity sale at Christie's. 100% of lots sold.
Four World Auction Records were set for Adel Abdessemed, Glen Ligon, Nate Lowman and Raymond Pettibon, and 2 works of art were sold for over one million dollars, Marlene Dumas at $2,000,000 and Luc Tuymans at $1,150,000, with many lots realizing well over their pre-sale estimates. 100% of the proceeds of the sale are going to support nonprofit groups already performing extraordinary work on the ground in Haiti, with a focus on children's education and health care. Please visit www.artistsforhaiti.com.
We are so grateful to all of the artists who dedicated their time and talent to help raise an extraordinary amount of money that will be utilized as efficiently and quickly as possible to help the people of Haiti. Christies and David Zwirner Gallery worked very hard to make this a success and I am thankful to have them as partners in this effort said Ben Stiller.
What an amazing evening! We are overwhelmed by the support we were able to get for tonight's auction. We exceeded the high estimate of $10 million, which is no small feat in today's uncertain times. Thanks to everyone who bid tonight, we can now go to work on the much needed humanitarian efforts to help the children in Haiti. We especially want to extend our appreciation to François Pinault and everyone at Christie's" said David Zwirner.
"Christie's is thrilled with the excellent results and the four auction records for Adel Abdessemed, Glenn Ligon, Nate Lowman and Raymond Pettibon, the works of art were of incredible quality and range, and highlight the generosity of the many artists who donated works said Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Development at Christies.