Tuesday night, not far from displays of high-end jewelry and watches by Vhernier and Bovet 1822, Chuck Close held court at the Pace Gallery on 57th Street in New York, exchanging pleasantries and posing for photos with everyone from socialites to Ben Stiller. They were celebrating the opening of “Fierce Creativity,” a five-day charity show that Close has organized with photographer Jessica Craig-Martin to support Artists for Peace and Justice, a nonprofit that funds health and education projects in Haiti.
Stacy Engman, in some particularly frilly red boots, came up to pay Close her compliments. “Artists always make the best curators,” she told him. “Fierce Creativity,” boasts a list of more than 45 artists, including Rita Ackerman, Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Urs Fischer, Laurie Simmons, William Wegman, and so many more.
In contrast to many art-world fundraisers, which revolve around the omnipresent benefit auction, the curators allowed contributing artists to set their own prices for their works. “I do so many of these, but this one is unique,” Close explained.
A Hirst spin painting, titled Beautiful, Whirling, Artists for Peace and Justice Painting, could be had for $130,000, and a giant jacquard tapestry version of Close’s Self-Portrait (With Cigarette) was up for grabs for $250,000. The father of the curator, Michael Craig-Martin, provided a work perfectly themed to the night’s purpose—a painting of a credit card. Price: $75,000.
Created by the Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis, Artists for Peace and Justice provides communities in Haiti with healthcare and education programs, like free primary and secondary schooling—by Haitians for Haitians. Close called APJ “a great organization.” Without it, he said, “kids drop out of school.”
Jessica Craig-Martin, who’s probably best known for shooting society types at events exactly like the one she had organized, has a personal relationship with the cause. She went to Haiti “spontaneously” 15 years ago, she told ARTnews, “after shooting wealthy Miami women with their custom golf carts and gowns,” and found the severe disparity between the two locales unsettling.
Like Close, she has been thinking recently about how art benefits should operate. “Artists get asked [to contribute work] so much,” she said. “There is no such thing as ‘spare art.’”
“I don’t know when artists became expected to save the world,” she added.