An oil painting by ALI AZMAT donated to a benefit auction for the Pakistan flood victims, held at Karachi’s Koel Gallery in September 2010. Courtesy Koel Gallery.

Philanthropy: Giving It Up For Good

With at least 2,000 dead and the lives of more than 20 million directly affected, the July floods in Pakistan evinced a profound, passionate response from the art community. A 100-work auction at Koel Gallery from August 16 to 19 brought in PKR 3.2 million (USD 39,000). Painter Abdul Jabbar Gul donated proceeds from his September show at Canvas Gallery to flood victims and participated in “Sanjh,” a benefit show at the Alhamra Art Gallery featuring heavily discounted works from 110 top artists such as Ayesha Jatoi, Faiza Butt and Salima Hashmi.

In early July, London megacollector Charles Saatchi announced that he would donate 200 significant works, including Zhang Dali’s giant installation Chinese Offspring (2003–05), Jitish Kallat’s 4,500-piece sculpture Public Notice 2 (2007) and Kader Attia’s ominous Ghost (2007), to the people of Great Britain.

Sydney collectors Brian and Gene Sherman pledged AUD 2 million (USD 1.9 million) in September for the completion of the new COFA Gallery at the University of New South Wales. The Sherman gift will honor beloved teacher Nick Waterlow, who was murdered in 2009. Gene Sherman was also given an adjunct professor position, which provoked student protests about private influence over the integrity of the school. Sherman responded well: “Why on earth would I want to be involved in university politics?” Philanthropist Simon Mordant also made a major donation to Sydney institutional life with AUD 15 million (USD 14.9 million) for the expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Far less magnanimous are the socialist realism productions of the Mansudae Overseas Project, an offshoot of North Korea’s Mansudae Art Studio, which is constructing public monuments in Africa. In April, the 160-foot-high African Renaissance Monument was dedicated on the crest of a hill in Dakar, Senegal. The project was the biggest and latest in the studio’s many years’ worth of spectacular public commissions in Africa. The project is controversial, not just for the murkiness of its funding and profit structure (it provides income for the embattled DPRK regime), but also for the fact that it depicts too much female flesh for the Muslim country.