An auction inspired by the artist Damien Hirst, organised by the singer Bono and featuring original pieces by Jeff Koons, Banksy and Andreas Gursky has entered the record books after raising £21m for HIV/Aids programmes in Africa.
The (RED) auction in New York on Thursday night became the most significant charity auction of contemporary art ever organised after records were set for 17 artists including the graffiti artist Banksy, the former Young British Artists Marc Quinn and Keith Tyson, and Howard Hodgkin. Proceeds will be donated to the United Nations Foundation to support HIV/Aids relief programmes in Africa, a project conducted by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Bono opened the Sotheby's auction, organised in conjunction with the Gagosian Gallery, with a rendition of the Beatles classic "All You Need Is Love" before a star-packed auction room which included the actor and art collector Dennis Hopper, the businesswoman Martha Stewart, and the models Helena Christensen and Christy Turlington.
Among the evening's highlights was Hirst's Where There's A Will, There's A Way, a pill-cabinet filled with HIV antiretroviral drugs which sold for £1.7m, a piece by Koons called Balloon Rabbit Wall Relief (RED) which sold for £1m and Takashi Murakami's three-dimensional Red Flower Ball.
Hirst, who contributed seven works to the auction which made a total of nearly £10m and included a painting of a red, heart-shaped butterfly to acknowledge the Valentine's Day sale, was delighted by the result. "It's not sunk in yet but it just shows you what you can do if you put your mind to it," he said. "I'm never going to be cynical ever again for a while. A big thank you and a million out of ten for all the artists who gave something. We've helped to change the world a little bit."
Bono added: "This is incredible. Art and love, sex and money came together tonight to make this Valentine's Day one that we at (RED) will never forget."
Last year, Hirst contacted dozens of the world's leading artists to ask them to contribute to the auction works inspired by the colour red and the concept of love. Their response was immediate, with offers of major works by Matthew Barney, Georg Baselitz, Douglas Gordon, Antony Gormley, Gursky, Jasper Johns, Anish Kapoor and Koons among others.
Oliver Barker, Sotheby's senior Contemporary Art specialist in London, hailed the event as "an extraordinary evening".
The big sellers
* Damien Hirst, Where There's A Will, There's a Way
* Damien Hirst, Love You, 2007
* Damien Hirst, Bromphenol Red, 2007
* Damien Hirst, All You Need is Love, 2006
* Jeff Koons, Balloon Rabbit Wall Relief (RED), 2008, above,
* Banksy (Defaced Hirst), Keep It Spotless, 2008
* Damien Hirst, Beautiful Red Spin Painting, 2007
* Richard Prince, Untitled (The Velvets), 2007
* Takashi Murakami, Red Flower Ball (3-D), 2007
* Andreas Gursky, Pyongyang IV, 2007
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