Sotheby’s and Google Are Teaming Up to Auction Off a Coffee Date With Hillary Clinton and Other Star-Studded Virtual Experiences for Charity

Sotheby's and Google will join forces to offer virtual encounters with very real celebrities to benefit the International Rescue Committee.

Hillary Clinton. Photo: Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

How do you stage a charity auction in the era of social distancing? Sotheby’s and Google have cracked the code with a collaboration, announced today, to benefit the International Rescue Committee. The auction house and tech giant are launching an online sale of unique experiences that can be enjoyed virtually (but only on Google Meet, of course—not their competitor Zoom).

Among the highlights: coffee with Hillary Rodham Clinton, a chance to record a song virtually with Sting, a hangout with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen “to chat about anything from writing comedy to regulating the internet” (?), and a personal virtual tour of Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed, with the show’s lead actors and creator. Also on offer: a private conversation with Apollo 9 astronaut Russell Schweickart, the first spacewalker of the Apollo program, and a date to make a virtual artwork with UK artist Marc Quinn.

Bidding starts at $50 for each of the experiences and 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction, including Sotheby’s buyer’s premium, will go toward the International Rescue Committee’s work to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities.

The sale is significant not only for its high-profile and novel offerings, but also because those in the industry are watching closely as art businesses attempt to pilot new collaborations amid an ongoing reconsideration of business as usual.

“With COVID-19 impacting the way we live, work, learn, and socialize, the need for secure video meetings to foster human connection has never been greater,” Javier Soltero, general manager for Google, said in a statement.

Another point of interest: There are no reserve prices for these items, so you could potentially end up with a Downton Abbey tour on the cheap, while still giving money to charity!

“Many of our clients around the world have enquired about supporting COVID-19 relief efforts and, with the partnership of Google and so many leading figures who have pledged to support this unique auction event of virtual experiences, we are looking forward to supporting the efforts of the International Rescue Committee,” said Charles Stewart, the CEO of Sotheby’s, in a statement.

The auction will be held online from May 1 through 8.

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