Art auctions for charity

This year, Christie’s Art + Soul programme has helped raise over $97m for noble causes. Catherine Manson, the auction house’s international director of corporate affairs, charts the relationship between art and philanthropy and offers up a painting as a lot in our charity auction

Street Scene in Naples by Vincenzo Migliaro (estimate £2,000-£3,000)
Street Scene in Naples by Vincenzo Migliaro (estimate £2,000-£3,000) | Image: © Christie's Images

** To bid for this painting in aid of Save the Children, visit Online auction ends December 11. **

When Andy’s Warhol’s iconic Dollar Sign painting sold for a record price of $5,122,500 in 2010, it seemed a highly appropriate symbol of the state of the global art market. It still does. Yet as headlines repeatedly trumpet the prices of masterpieces – with today’s leading collectors following the path of wealthy patrons throughout the ages by seeking out and acquiring great art – there are also a great many sales each year that raise funds for noble causes.


The use of the auction for philanthropy goes back a long way. In the chronology of Christie’s, stretching over nearly 250 years, there have been many notable auctions that have raised funds for endeavours beyond fixing the roof of a stately home. The celebrated Red Cross series of sales took place during both the first and second world wars. On December 18 1918, Christie’s teamed up with Princess Victoria, daughter of Edward VII and sister of George V, to collect pearls to string together into necklaces to sell for charity, with thousands gathered from all over the country. In more recent times, charity auctions have raised funds for many leading global organisations, and have often been supported by artists, musicians and actors, as well as scions of business and industry. From the sales of dresses from the collection of the Princess of Wales to Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Eleventh Hour auction of contemporary art, global audiences have enjoyed acquiring objects, art and experiences, while raising funds for worthwhile endeavours.

Christie’s is proud to have been asked by the FT’s How To Spend It magazine to support the How To Give It project for Save the Children. It is a unique idea driven by a singular vision and we are honoured to host the sale on our online-only sales site and to share the project with our global clients. Our team members have all donated their time and Christie’s has waived all commissions for this so that the sum total of funds raised goes directly to the charity. We are also delighted to donate this signed oil painting by 19th-century Italian artist Vincenzo Migliaro to the auction. As to our philanthropic endeavours, Christie’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme, Art + Soul, supported over 274 charitable events across 27 countries last year alone. In 2014, we have helped raise in excess of $97m for noble causes and have sold $114m-worth of art. Christie’s regularly sells works of art in daily sales to benefit charitable organisations and foundations.


The creation and donation of pieces to raise funds for good causes also falls within a longstanding tradition that centres around the role of a patron commissioning an artist. The majority of collections held by the greatest museums in the world have at their core the property of an individual collector who bequeathed the creations for public enjoyment. Patrons may focus on how to collect art, but many are equally committed to how to share and give the pleasure of great works to broader audiences.

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