“T here are 37 million people in the world living with HIV – 26 million of them in Africa – and I just felt I wouldn’t be doing my work fully unless I was willing to turn my attention to this effort,” Theaster Gates says. The American artist is collaborating with leading architect Sir David Adjaye and musician Bono to curate the third (RED) auction, a landmark sale and gala set up to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS. It will take place on 5 December at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District, during Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami.
It follows two previous events of its kind, in 2008 and 2013, which together have raised $68 million. This year’s edition will be themed around “light” and, of course, the colour red – the prime symbol of the charity founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver in 2006. “Light is about not only the illumination of the truth of the disease, but also about creating an environment where, in this conversation about darkness, there could be thoughtfulness that responds to it,” Gates says.
Among the many artists donating works to the auction are Jeff Koons, Teresita Fernández and Ai Weiwei. Gates and Adjaye, meanwhile, will create unique pieces – Gates a red version of his Civil Tapestry, a canvas built out of disused firehoses, and Adjaye a work inspired by his time spent designing the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. “When I was working on [this museum] I learned so much about the properties of reflective materials,” Adjaye says. “I conceptualised a sort of four-sided table that was about freezing light into a space – I felt like I had to do one, and I wanted a red one.”
To date, (RED) has generated more than $500 million for the Global Fund to support lifesaving HIV/AIDS programmes in Africa. Proceeds from this year’s auction will continue to support community-based efforts in Africa through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, while also providing assistance to the HIV fight through community-strengthening programmes in Chicago with the Rebuild Foundation – an organisation championed by Theaster Gates. But the fight is far from over. “People say that it would be possible to at least reconcile this disease by 2030,” Gates says. “The only way is if everybody who has any amount of life in them participates in this effort.” As Adjaye says, “In a world where everybody’s just doing, artists are somehow in this incredible space of being able to think and look at the world. If creatives were a part of reflecting on what we can do to get more information out, more knowledge out, more love out, then there might be other ways that we can look at problems like AIDS and find interesting solutions.”
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The third (RED) auction will be on view from 1–5 December at the Moore Building, Miami. Auction: 5 December. For more information, visit sothebys.com/red.