Sotheby’s Auction to Help Survivors of Grenfell Tower Fire Raises Over $2.5 Million

Tracey Emin, Wolfgang Tillmans, and gallerist Sadie Coles among first responders for charity auction at Sotheby’s.

A gallery employee poses in front of an artwork entitled Loving You More (2015) by British artist Tracey Emin, during a photocall for the "Art For Grenfell" auction, at Sotheby's in London on October 12, 2017. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

The charity auction Art for Grenfell at Sotheby’s London last night, October 16, proved again how artists are often the most generous donors. The sale raised nearly £1.9 million (over $2.5 million), with the biggest cheer in the sellout, 31 lot-sale, greeting the sale of Tracey Emin’s neon work Loving You More (2015), which raised £135,000 (estimate £25,000-£35,000).

Emin was one of the first artists to offer their work when asked by the art consultant Katie Heller and film producer Hamish McAlpine shortly after the fatal fire in June in the west London tower block that claimed the lives of nearly 80 residents including the young artist Khadija Saye. Sotheby’s waived most of its fees and buyers’ premium, so the majority of the money raised will go to former residents who are now living in temporary accommodation.

A gallery employee poses in front of an artwork entitled Freischwimmer 193 (2009) by German artist Wolfgang Tillmans, during a photocall for the Art For Grenfell auction, at Sotheby’s London. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

Big-ticket sales included Wolfgang Tillmans’s deep green abstract Freischwimmer 193 (2009). The artist’s proof of an edition of one chromogenic print raised £320,000. Tacita Dean was another Art for Grenfell first responder; she created especially for the sale a charcoal on paper work, Lay the Dust with Tears. Dated September 11, 2017, the now Los Angeles-based artist made sure it arrived on time, Heller said. The London-based gallerist Sadie Coles also supported the sale directly, donating a small 1998 painting by Neo Rauch, Treffen, from her personal collection, which sold for £55,000.

Idris Khan, Harland Miller, and Anish Kapoor also created work or titled it with the disaster in mind. Kahn’s charcoal and watercolour I remember (2017) raised £35,000. Miller’s silkscreen of a paperback book with the title Who Cares Wins (2017) went for £50,000 and Kapoor’s Red Lens for Grenfell (2017) made £110,000. Limited edition prints by Jeremy Deller, South Londoners (£500, edition of 100) were selling well also and so should push the final total of the sale to almost £2 million, twice the amount the organizers had hoped.

A Sotheby’s art handler takes notes next to What Unites Human Beings (R) by Bob and Roberta Smith, estimated at £2,500-£3,500, during an Art for Grenfell press call at Sotheby’s Art for Grenfell. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Sotheby’s.

A gallery employee poses in front of artworks entitled Who Cares Wins (2017) by British artist Harland Miller (L), and Bad School Boy (2014) by British-born Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, during a photocall for the Art For Grenfell auction, at Sotheby’s London. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images.

Heller and McAlpine wrote in the sale catalog that persuading 31 artists to donate works was not difficult but finding a charity to distribute the money raised directly to those affected by the fire was more of a challenge. The Rugby Portobello Trust has agreed to do this by mid-December.

Sotheby’s UK chairman, Harry Dalmeny, who conducted the upbeat auction, reminded those in the room, those who were online, or telephone bidding that the fire had happened “in our town and on our watch.” In the catalog he wrote that the “awfulness of what happened is very close to home for all of us Londoners,” including Sotheby’s staff: The route to and from the company’s warehouse in west London passes the burned ruin of Grenfell Tower.

A woman poses for photographs next to En Passage by Isaac Julien, estimated at £18,000-£25,000, during an Art for Grenfell press call at Sotheby’s Art for Grenfell preview on October 12, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Sotheby’s.

But for one of the artists who donated a work, the fire was even closer to home. Angela de la Cruz’s studio is in a complex almost directly beneath the tower. Her abstract painting Tight (White/Cream) sold for £15,000.


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