Mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth unveiled “Artists for New York,” a sale of work by over 100 acclaimed artists to benefit visual art nonprofits in New York City that have been impacted by COVID-19 as well as two philanthropic nonprofit organizations. The sale of the artist-donated works will launch online on October 1 and run through October 22, accompanied by a display of a portion of the work at the gallery’s Chelsea and Upper East Side locations.
The 14 participating nonprofits, which range from small to mid-size institutions, are the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Dia Art Foundation, the Drawing Center, El Museo del Barrio, High Line Art, MoMA PS1, Artists Space, the New Museum, Public Art Fund, Queens Museum, SculptureCenter, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Swiss Institute, and White Columns. Eighty percent of the net proceeds (outside of reimbursement to Hauser & Wirth for fundraising costs and a percentage of funds retained by the participating artists) will be split evenly among these arts institutions. The remaining 20% will be divided equally between the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), which supports individual artists, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which supports public initiatives including the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
While the list of participating artists is still growing, it includes artists from the gallery’s roster, like Rashid Johnson and Mika Rottenberg, as well as artists unaffiliated with the gallery, such as Lynda Benglis and Peter Saul. Work from several artists’ estates, including those of Robert Ryman and Dan Flavin, will also be on offer. A new piece from Jenny Holzer’s Survival series (1983–85), “In a Dream You Saw a Way to Survive and You Were Full of Joy” (2020), is sure to be an auction highlight.
Amid pandemic shutdowns, survival has indeed been the goal for many arts nonprofits. A survey of New York City arts and culture nonprofits released in June by SMU DataArts for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs revealed that, from the start of lockdown in March, small nonprofits — defined as those with operating budgets under $250,000 — had incurred losses of around 20–30% of annual revenue, while larger organizations incurred losses of about 15%.
“Artists for New York” was spearheaded by Hauser & Wirth president Marc Payot. “As we looked ahead to the fall and how best to emerge from this challenging time,” Payot wrote, “it was clear to Iwan [Wirth], Manuela [Wirth], and myself, as well as our artists, that we couldn’t simply proceed with ‘business as usual’ without also addressing the very real needs of the nonprofit organizations that have become our community […] We believe [the participating nonprofits] will together play a central role in the city’s recovery from this unprecedented time of difficulty, helping their communities to restore, revive, and forge new paths for the future. Most of all, they will continue to foster the breakthroughs of artists.”
Kyle Dancewicz, Interim Director of nonprofit contemporary art museum SculptureCenter in Queens, shared his thoughts on the initiative with Hyperallergic. “As we’ve geared up to reopen SculptureCenter with two major new exhibitions by Tishan Hsu and Jesse Wine, both of which were rescheduled from early May, each day spent in the museum has only confirmed how critical it is to make space for the way artists see and think about the world,” he said. “The weird clarity of art objects feels amazing right now. That so many artists have recognized SculptureCenter and these other organizations’ roles in supporting their work and contributing to a greater art ecosystem is incredibly humbling.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that “Artists for New York” was an auction. It is a sale. We apologize for the error which has been amended.