In 2006, Cristina and Thomas Bechtler together with a circle of friends started the Zurich committee of Human Rights Watch. Cheyenne Westphal, Co-Head, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Worldwide, spoke with Cristina about her involvement in the organisation and this auction, part of the Contemporary Art Day sale, with proceeds benefitting Human Rights Watch.
What is the mission of Human Rights Watch?
HRW was established in 1978 as an independent, international organisation that works to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all.
How did your involvement with HRW begin?
In 2006, a few friends of my husband, Thomas and I decided to set up a small support committee for Human Rights Watch in Zurich. We were all impressed with the organisation’s achievements, dedication and professionalism and wanted to get involved. Today the Zurich committee is one of more than 20 worldwide and is strong and very active. We recently also established a Circle of Friends in Basel where our support community is growing.
Who are your main counterparts worldwide?
Human Rights Watch works closely with local human rights organisations in many countries around the world as well as with other global organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), various UN agencies and other groups.
You have an impressive advisory board. How have the members contributed to the auction?
We have received direct and indirect support for this auction. Some members donated works, while others facilitated the contact to an artist who contributed a work. Everyone on the Advisory shares a commitment to justice and a passion for art and wanted to link those two areas.
Tell us about the art you have assembled for this auction.
The artists who have contributed to this auction often explore and address issues around justice and inequality in their works. Think of artists such as Rosemarie Trockel, Sarah Lucas, Thomas Hirschhorn, Jaume Plensa and others, where social themes appear frequently, be it in playful or in more serious ways. Like the work of HRW, these artists try to make you see the world differently, to expose hidden truths and make you question some of your easily held assumptions.
How will the proceeds from the auction be used?
Proceeds from this art auction will go to HRW – and they will help save lives, secure justice in countries around the globe, protect women’s and children’s rights and seek accountability for the worst war crimes. In my mind, there is no nobler cause for us as human beings.
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