Artists Help Raise $7.5 Billion for Global Vaccination Campaign

The Gates Foundation tapped Vik Muniz, Annie Leibovitz and others for the cause.

Vik Muniz and Tal Danilo in front of a print from the Colonies series Photo: Tal Danilo

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has commissioned a vaccination awareness campaign entitled The Art of Saving a Life which utilizes artwork. Launched on Wednesday, the campaign coincides with a broader multinational effort to raise money to inoculate millions of people around the world who do not have access to health care.

The foundation has commissioned works for the campaign from an illustrious group of artists such as Vik Muniz and Annie Leibovitz, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, filmmaker Luc Jacquet, and the band Playing for Change.

Conceptualized by Gates Foundation consultant Christine McNab, campaign organizers hope that the information will spread virally—on the internet. Christopher Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Gates Foundation hopes that the strategy will get the message to people “who aren’t going to read the editorial in Science.

For his contribution to the campaign, Brazilian-born photographer Vik Muniz collaborated with the M.I.T. bioengineer and designer Tal Danino to create a series entitled Colonies, which features colorful prints depicting close-up images of bacteria and cells. Describing his contribution Muniz told the New York Times, “Normally, patterns are soothing structures, and all of a sudden, there’s a lot of drama.” At first glance, Muniz’s print could be mistaken for a floral design, but in reality it shows living organisms found in the smallpox vaccine.

Alexia Sinclair Edward Jenners Smallpox Discovery

Alexia Sinclair, Edward Jenners Smallpox Discovery.
Photo: Courtesy of The Art of Saving a Life

Renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz provided the campaign with black and white images of vaccine development researchers. German artist Thomas Ganter made an oil on canvas painting depicting front-line Ebola doctors entitled The Unknown Health Worker. Australian photographer Alexia Sinclair, who created a photographic interpretation of the first smallpox vaccine being given, said she was happy to contribute to the effort because it “allows the conversation to happen in a clearer way.”

The campaign culminates at the GAVI Medical Alliance in Berlin on January 27, where some of the artworks will go on display. The group is currently attempting to raise $7.5 billion for worldwide immunization projects.

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