Artists, auctioneers, collectors, and curators around the world are taking stock of 2020’s tumultuous events—and many are responding with innovation, resilience, and acts of great generosity. Their aim: that arts and culture are not only preserved throughout this year’s many challenges, but that they become the lens through which we can one day look back on the forces changing our lives.
Here are three projects doing just that by raising funds and supporting their communities, ensuring that art can continue to inspire.
Christie’s We Are All Beirut Charity Auction
When, on August 4 this year, an explosion ripped through the city of Beirut, leaving devastation in its wake, Christie’s knew action would be needed to support Lebanon’s vibrant cultural community. “Lebanese art has been at the heart of our Middle Eastern auctions since 2006, and Christie’s feels a deep sense of responsibility to be part of the global efforts to help rebuild Beirut, a city so rich in culture,” says Michael Jeha, Chairman of Christie’s Middle East.
Some of the funds raised will go towards the cost of rebuilding the Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum, located only 870 yards (800 m) from the explosion site. The museum suffered significant damage to the building, as well as to 50 of the 130 artworks in its collection, according to Zeina Arida, the museum’s director.
“We will try to raise as much as possible, and hope to make a significant contribution in the region of $1 million,” Jeha says. “We have seen an outpouring of support from around the world, with collectors and artists generously wanting to donate works.”
It’s anticipated that there will be around 50 works available, including paintings and sculptures. “We’d also like to add one or two pieces of jewelry designed for the auction by Lebanese designers,” he adds. “We would like the artistic community of Beirut to know that Christie’s stands with it, that the people of Lebanon are resilient, and together we will rebuild a stronger future.”
The Artist Support Pledge
The idea behind the Artist Support Pledge—which was set up in March by U.K.-based artist Matthew Burrows—is simple. Artists post their work on Instagram using the hashtag #artistsupportpledge. Each piece costs £200 ($260) or less, and interested parties make direct contact with the artist. Every time an artist reaches £1,000 ($1,285) in sales, they pledge to purchase £200 worth of work from a fellow creator.
The concept quickly caught on: within the first month, the hashtag generated sales worth $19 million, with more than 76,500 posts of artwork for sale. By September, artists and customers from the United States, Europe, Australia, Russia, Taiwan, and Japan had bought and sold artwork from more than 394,900 posts, increasing sales to $77 million.
“I couldn’t have imagined this kind of success when I made my first post in March,” Burrows says. “It’s not only helped artists to survive, but thrive. They’ve paid their rent, kept their families going, and been able to make work with purpose.”
Although borne out of the pandemic, Burrows sees potential for the Artist Support Pledge to grow beyond the constraints of social distancing. While he’s currently running the platform from his studio in East Sussex, England, he has plans for growth in store. “I’m currently seeking sponsorship and funding to allow me to employ a team,” he says. “I want to make this a permanent feature of our cultural landscape.”
The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts
In the United States, The Andy Warhol Foundation also reacted quickly to the pandemic. With its mission to advance the visual arts (as stipulated by Warhol’s will), the foundation is making emergency grants worth $1.6 million available to artists in 16 American cities. The aim is to support the art community’s most vulnerable populations.
“With the help of our Regional Regranting network, we are able to directly address the emergency-related needs of artists in cities where the level of on-the-ground self-organized artistic activity is highest,” explains Joel Wachs, president of the foundation.
The Regional Regranting Program usually supports artists by partnering with leading cultural institutions. However, given this year’s events, it was decided that the funds should go directly to the artists themselves—with no restrictions on how the money is to be spent.
“Our regranting partners have intimate knowledge of and regular contact with vulnerable artist populations in their communities; they possess the skills, the systems, and the strong relationships necessary to carry out this program efficiently, effectively and with heart,” says Rachel Bers, the foundation’s program director.
Banner image: The Humanist Art Display at Beirut’s Sursock Museum in 2018. Christopher Baaklini