The world is full of wrongs, but it’s warming to think of artists and the broader creative community as a unique demographic – rebellious, playful, provocative (at times arrogantly so), and yet not without strength, integrity and purpose.
So it’s fantastic to see so many artists turning their eyes and hands towards projects for social good. The biggest and most public, perhaps, involves 200+ artists, musicians, writers and art world professionals, coming together to launch Hands off Our Revolution, an artistic initiative to confront the rising spectre of fascism around the world. It will take the form of a series of international exhibitions and art projects, with the first major project to be announced next month.
The new movement will shine a light on the rise of right wing populism in the US, Europe and elsewhere in the world and questioning the state we’re in. From Trump to Le Pen, Wilders to Orban, Putin to Erdogan, these last few years have been defined by the rise and entrenchment of the illiberal, authoritarian strongman in the Western world. It is important that artists do as much as possible to find an alternative, propose solutions, and encourage dialogue.
Quieter and closer to home, Bonhams are staging several auctions in the coming few weeks for various causes – as a force for change on environmental and medical issues – including THAW, a series of large-scale photographs by aerial photographer Timo Lieber, capturing the melting Arctic polar ice cap and the impact of Arctic warming, and CURE³, a commissioning of 50 leading contemporary artists to create new work in and on a 20cm³ perspex box, in response to three key words for inspiration of particular relevance to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT), for which funds for vital research will be raised through the auctioning of the works: SLOW, STOP, REVERSE.
At the same time, some of the biggest names in art, from Grayson Perry to Antony Gormley, have created artworks from the ashes of Glasgow School of Art to help raise funds for the building’s restoration. The school was gutted by a fire in May 2014, and as part of an appeal towards resurrecting the historic Mackintosh building, artists were sent the charred remains and asked to craft them into a work of art. The Ash to Art project has seen Perry make a glazed ceramic urn with the words “Art is dead. Long live art” emblazoned on it.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Perry. “It’s the most famous art school building in Britain. It’s also the masterpiece of [Charles Rennie] Mackintosh. It’s a double tragedy. I was very excited when I received the box of charcoal. I had an idea almost immediately and the idea of making an urn was an obvious thing to do. The idea of memorialising or celebrating the difficulty – honouring the wound. It’s something I’m trying to do. Move on and make the most of it.” Other artists involved include Simon Starling, Cornelia Parker, the Chapman brothers and Sir Peter Blake. Each was sent a specific piece of debris, telling them where it had been collected, and given free rein to make whatever they chose. The artworks will be auctioned by Christie’s in March.
Walking in Melbourne, 2016 (c) Julian Opie
For CURE³ at Bonhams