A mongst the paintings in Batia Ofer’s London home is a felt-tip drawing of a smiling boy stood in front of a castle. It’s propped up on her personal desk on its own, but unlike the works that adorn the walls, it is not by a famous artist. It is a card from a boy called Isaac, thanking Batia for making his wish to go to Disneyland come true.
The card is telling, in that it encapsulates the idea that lies behind Art of Wishes, the charitable initiative Batia established in 2017 to raise money — more than £8m to date — for the Make-A-Wish UK Foundation, the charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. And fundamentally, the idea that art can bring about positive change in people's lives underpins everything Art of Wishes does.
Jewellery Creations by Fabio Salini: A Charity Auction for Art of Wishes
Being a collector and philanthropist, Batia was well-placed to turn this idea into a reality. The gala she stages in London every other year during Frieze week has become a pivotal date in the art world calendar, attracting the support of artists — Tracey Emin, Jenny Saville and Georg Baselitz have all donated works over the years — as well as gallerists, museum directors, actors, musicians and fellow philanthropist and collectors.
This gala has been incredibly successful, but now Batia is seeking to expand its activities to raise more money for Make-a-Wish, the cause she became involved with a decade and a half ago. The latest — a charity auction to be conducted by Sotheby’s in September — is a collaboration with jewellery designer Fabio Salini, who has donated more than fifty pieces from his personal collection. We asked Batia about how this came about and to tell us more about Art of Wishes.
What does it mean to you and Make-a-Wish to have this donation from Fabio Salini?
I would like to say first, that Art of Wishes couldn’t have achieved what it has achieved without the unerring support, collaboration and generosity of the artworld. The kindness I have experienced never ceases to amaze me, and Fabio’s gift, one of the largest we have ever received, exemplifies this. When he told me earlier this year that he wanted to make this donation, I admit I was temporarily lost for words, and more so when I discovered the scale of the gift. It is a truly astonishing gesture, and I want to thank him with all my heart on behalf of Make-a-Wish and all the children it is going to help. This donation will enable us to grant as many as a thousand wishes to critically ill children, bringing light and hope not only to them but also to their families.
'As well as being an extraordinary human being with a huge heart, Fabio is a true artist and visionary'
What have you enjoyed about working with Fabio?
Not only has Fabio made this extraordinary donation, he has also worked tirelessly with Art of Wishes and our partner Sotheby’s every step of the way to make it a success. On a personal level, it has also been hugely illuminating discovering more about the vision and ideals that inform and inspire his artistic practice. As well as being an extraordinary human being with a huge heart, he is also a true artist and visionary. His willingness to take risks, to stretch boundaries, and to draw on such a diverse range of references, both contemporary and historic, is truly breath-taking, revealing, I believe, that magical point where art and jewellery intersect.
How does Fabio’s donation fit into the wider Art of Wishes mission?
Art of Wishes mission is to double the number of children the Make-a-Wish Foundation can help over the next three years, and this is an important step towards that goal. We have many other plans to reach out to more people than we currently do, which we will be announcing in the coming months. We also hope others will be inspired by Fabio’s generosity and come forward and support us in the future, ever expanding the impact we can make on children’s lives. But we can only do so much, and I would love to hear from anyone who feels they can help us. If you feel you might be able to do so at any level, please email me at email@example.com
Tell us more about the difference the charity makes to children’s lives?
When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-limiting condition, the joy of childhood is brought abruptly to an end. A wish has the power to revive a childhood stolen by illness, bringing light and joy to seriously ill children and their families, creating positive moments and cherished memories that have a lasting impact.
Granting a child’s wish empowers them with choice at a time when so much is decided for them by the restrictions of their health care. There are so many examples, but one that will forever stay with me is Ella, whom I met when she was eight years old. She told me, ‘once I realised my wish could become a reality, I was thinking if this can become true then why can’t I win the battle over my cancer’ — and she did! Seeing the seemingly impossible happen can make children believe anything is possible. Sadly, not all kids survive, but we have conducted extensive research that shows within the parameters of recovery, children who have had their wish fulfilled do better! They even feel less pain during their treatments.
To get involved with the Art of Wishes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Art of Wishes auction will be held on 7 September at Sotheby’s London, with an online auction running from 25 August–8 September. The exhibition will be held at Sotheby’s London 1–7 September
Art of Wishes is a charitable initiative that brings the international art community together to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation UK. Driven by the vision of its Founder Batia Ofer, Art of Wishes engages a wide network of artists, collectors, galleries and institutions to host events, commission new works and raise awareness, with the sole aim of granting lifechanging wishes for children with critical illnesses.