Art World Support For Covid-19 Relief Efforts
By Ophelia Lai
Concurrent with the rise in private-sector and nonprofit initiatives supporting Covid-19 relief efforts, members of the art world have also stepped up to provide assistance in ways large and small.
In the Philippines, where at least 17 frontline medics have died and more than 600 are quarantined amid a shortage of medical supplies, Manila-based Silverlens Galleries cofounder Isa Lorenzo, a medical doctor by training, has been working with The Outstanding Women in the Nations Service Foundation (TOWNS) and the University of the Philippines (UP) Medical Foundation to coordinate deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical centers nationwide. Through coordination with the air force, navy, and Cebu Pacific airline, PPE packages have been distributed to destinations including hospitals around the Metro Manila area; 43 hospitals in Luzon province outside Manila; health centers on seven islands in the Visayas archipelago; 37 hospitals in Mindanao; and clinics on small islands like Basilan and Jolo.
Meanwhile, grassroots organization The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), launched a fundraiser on March 31 to help procure food and medical supplies for the 100-plus displaced Lumad schoolchildren who are now sheltering at Manila’s University of the Philippines Diliman campus. The indigenous Lumad people have fled their native Mindanao in droves, citing military oppression and extrajudicial killings under martial law imposed by president Rodrigo Duterte between 2017 and 2019, allegedly to root out terrorism. Many displaced Lumad are now stranded in locked-down Manila, and dependent on donations of food and supplies. In addition to this fundraiser, CAP has been campaigning for free mass Covid-19 testing, and spreading awareness on Facebook.
In a call to aid civil society groups, Jakarta-based collective Ruangrupa has taken to social media to court donations to a fund drive for the Indonesian nonprofit Urban Poor Consortium, which is working to provide subsidies for street vendors, cab drivers, and other low-income individuals whose livelihoods have been impacted by the novel coronavirus. Jakarta is just beginning to roll out restrictions as the capital city is emerging as Indonesia’s hotbed of the disease.
In South Africa, the initial epicenter of Covid-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Johannesburg-based Goodman Gallery has partnered with the Witkoppen Health and Welfare Clinic to raise funds for the nonprofit organization’s relief programs. Goodman is selling limited-edition blankets designed by artists including painters Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, and multimedia duo Broomberg and Chanarin, with all proceeds benefiting the Clinic.
Elsewhere in the world, artists and institutions are cooperating to produce, donate, and distribute personal protective gear to frontline medical staff. A United States-based group called Mask Crusaders is coordinating donations of face masks, gloves, and other supplies from workers in the cultural sector and other industries. Art handlers at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art as well as conservators at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, and Van Gogh Museum will also donate their supplies.
Beyond the frontlines, shuttered businesses have seen a sharp decline in revenue, forcing many to make mass layoffs. Art Jameel has launched a Research and Practice Platform offering grants of USD 1,000–2,000 to independent practitioners based in the Middle East and North Africa “who work on a per-project basis and whose practices have been affected by programme cancellations and project changes, locally or globally.” Exemplary projects may receive up to USD 3,000 based on “scope and need.” Applications are accepted from now until June 7.
International mega gallery Hauser & Wirth, which has an active digital platform, pledged on April 1 to donate ten percent of revenues from its online sales to the World Health Organization.
Global Covid-19 cases have now exceeded 900,000, with the death toll close to 47,000. In addition to the severe strain on health systems around the world, economic losses due to the pandemic are estimated by the United Nations to reach USD 2 trillion.
Ophelia Lai is ArtAsiaPacific’s associate editor.
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