Gary Sangster on the Choose Art I Give Light to Refugees Benefit Auction - until 29 June 2020

Artists are amongst the most insightful and generous people I know. Their goal is to observe and describe the world as they see it and animate that description in a way that makes the world a richer and more meaningful experience for us all. They can bring into focus unseen, unnoticed moments, uncover the invisible, and they can personalise global events and movements that affect each of us in different ways. 

With this in mind, Choose Art | Give Light to Refugees is a Benefit Auction of rare urgency, inflected and coloured by the immediate effects of dual global tragedies, the pandemic and the refugee crisis. The artists donating their work signals their personal commitment, but also sense of joint responsibility. 

We read the work with added nuance and we see the world in different ways, because of the moment and because of the art.

Some with a painful poignancy like Our Bush Dresses - Kangaroo Paws by Lori Pensini (Australia), The Coming of the Boatman by Guy Warren (Australia), or Home by Charmaine Watkiss (UK).

Some with menacing threat and fear, like Report US Dailies by Eileen Boxer (USA), an extraordinary and celebrated suite of books documenting daily gun deaths in the USA, or Merilyn Fairskye’s #44484d (cyberspace), 2019-2020, the interior of a Soviet-era space capsule in the Moscow Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. 

There is the tenderness, fragility, or ominousness of the natural landscape or garden, in Mandy Bonnell’s delicate Hibiscus, or Shade of Soul from Doi Pa Dang #6 by Noppanan Thannaree (Thailand).

And there is the inherent political meanings in After The Raft of the Medusa, a compelling, arresting work by John Beard (UK/Australia), in Mairéad McClean’s ensemble of works, To Be Retained, 2018, with its comic bureaucracy, “seven cows, found in suspicious circumstances”, in the ever iconic Nixon, by Colin Crumplin (UK), and in Ian Howard (Australia), Vienna to Prague, a dynamic work made from face fragments, the discarded cuttings of edited travel document headshots.

The range and quality of the work and ideas in Choose Art | Give Light to Refugees, and the urgency of our shared experience in this disrupted world, makes this project both timely and necessary.

Gary Sangster, 2020

Gary Sangster is an art historian and curator, and Co-Director of Drawing Projects UK. He has international curatorial experience as Chief Curator of the National Art Gallery, New Zealand; Curator, The New Museum, New York City; and as Director of the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore; Director of the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art; Director of Headlands, San Francisco; Director of Artspace, Sydney; Interim Director of Arts Catalyst – Art, Science and Technology, London; and as Trustee, Arnolfini, Bristol. Education appointments include: Dean, Art Institute of Boston, Lesley University, USA. Key exhibitions include: Two World’s Collide, Sydney; The Decade Show, NYC; Breathing Time, New Orleans; Judith Barry for the US Pavilion (Grand Prize), Cairo Biennale; and touring survey exhibitions for Komar & Melamid, Mary Kelly, Kerry James Marshall, and Genevieve Cadieux.

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