Monday, April 11, 2011

The art of giving

How generous are artists? Very generous indeed is the answer. Over the years artists have given countless works of art to auctions raising funds for this cause and that without a thought for recognition or making any complaint at the disproportionate amount they give. And it is a fact that artists give disproportionately. Can you imagine a young lawyer being asked to stump up with four or five thousand dollars to support a local cause? And yet this what happens to some artists two and three times a year, and two or three times a year they offer up an art work to raise money. Nowadays the amount is sometimes reduced to the commission on the work, but still it is usually a contribution way in excess of the usual $10, $20 or a particularly generous $50 of most donations.

A remarkable example of the generous gesture is that made collectively by British artist Sarah Lucas, a private patron and her dealers Two Rooms in Auckland and Sadie Coles in London. It starts with Sarah Lucas deciding to donate the proceedings from the sale of one of her works in her recent Two Rooms exhibition to the Christchurch Earthquake Fund. It continues with a collector purchasing a work from the show and then gifting it to the Christchurch Art Gallery. That meant the Earthquake Fund benefited from Sarah Lucas’s donation of the purchase price of $160,000 and the Christchurch Art Gallery was able to add a work of their choice from the exhibition (they chose NUD CYCLADIC 2 for the record) thanks to a very generous patron. Both dealer galleries waived commission and it is expected that the Christchurch Art Gallery will receive a further $160,000 as part of its dollar for dollar matching agreement with the City Council on all donations. An extraordinary act of generosity gained momentum rippled out on a huge scale.

When you put the Lucas example together with gestures like that made by Dick Scott and Webb’s, and the many other artists, collectors, dealers and auction houses, you are talking about significant amounts coming out of the visual arts cultural sector each year.

Image: A Sarah Lucas NUD CYCLADIC work from the same series as the one donated to Christchurch NUD CYCLADIC © The Artist. Image via Sadie Coles HQ, London and Two Rooms, Auckland. photograph: Julian Simmons