Joining forces: Christie’s fights world hunger

Seven works donated by Arab artists have been sold by Christie’s to benefit the United Nations World Food Programme. finds out how collaborations with the art world are helping the organisation in its humanitarian efforts

Artists from the UAE, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Palestine donated works for sale in Christie’s auction of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art in Dubai this month, raising approximately US$40,000 for the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Among the works was Fighting Hunger by Syrian Figurative artist Sara Shamma, who became a WFP Celebrity Partner in December 2010 after learning about the humanitarian efforts of the organisation.

While the sale of a piece of artwork might be a drop in the ocean in terms of feeding the world’s one billion hungry people, the advantage of supporting WFP is simple claims Ashraf Hamouda, Head of Partnership & Business Development for MENA, Central Asia & Eastern Europe at WFP: “US$0.25 can feed a schoolchild for a day. So as little as US$5,000 spent on a painting can feed close to 20,000 school kids.”

"Priceless efforts"

However, he is quick to point out that the benefits to be gained through collaborations with international businesses such as Christie’s “transcend money”, adding: “The visibility Christie’s is bringing to the issue of hunger and WFP’s efforts to fight it through this initiative is priceless.”

The collusion of artists such as Shamma, who’s list of achievements include winning the Painting in Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, Australia in 2008, and fourth prize at the prestigious BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2004, goes a long way in the promotion of the programme’s cause.

And while some may wonder at the level of affinity to be had between the art world and humanitarian aid, Hamouda is adamant that they are a good fit. “I think aid workers, artists and art lovers all have in common a particularly high level of idealism. Plus we believe that feeding the mind and the soul is as important as feeding the body!”

The organisation’s involvement in the art scene is set to grow stronger over the coming months, with a planned partnership with Art Dubai in 2013 considered to be an important milestone in bringing along more artists and collectors to support the WFP’s programmes.