Auction houses continue to dip their feet into the primary market, and starting today, Sotheby’s New York presents “Magnum Opus,” a major sales exhibition of the work of Brazilian photographer and conservationist Sebastião Salgado. But in this case, the exhibition, free and open to the public until October 12, entirely benefits Instituto Terra, the non-profit conservation association co-founded by the artist and his wife, Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado. .
“Magnum Opus” includes 50 platinum prints by Salgado, straight from the artist’s studio, and dating from his early work in 1978 until today. The prints were created in larger sizes than normally given to fans, even in museum exhibits, with each image measuring around 3 by 4 feet on average.
The exhibition covers five decades of the artist’s career, from his earliest series, including “Other Americas” (1977-1984), in which he documented the life of impoverished communities across Latin America, to his recent exploration of rainforest destruction in the “Amazon” (2021).
“For more than three decades, Salgado’s work has featured in our photography auctions,” Emily Bierman, Head of Photography at Sotheby’s, told Artnet News. “Following the recent installations of his Amazônia exhibition in Paris and London, I was inspired by his commitment to conservation and the power [of] his work to find a way to collaborate.
“Magnum Opus” is also launching Sotheby’s new Social Impact programme, which aims, among other things, to promote access to art and environmental protection. The initiative will be further marked by the auction house’s first-ever gala, hosted by CEO Charles F. Stewart this week on September 28. In addition to a seated dinner and a live performance by Latin popstar Anitta, the event will also include a sale of artworks centered around the Earth’s natural treasures, including an archival elephant print by wildlife photographer Michel Ghatan and an abstract floral acrylic painting by Susan Swartz.
The exclusive experiences are the real headliners of the sale, however. Building on previous experiences, like their MayDay Covid Relief Charity Auction, which offered virtual conversations with celebrities like Hillary Clinton and the Strokes, this new sale will feature offers for an in-person studio visit with David Hockney. and a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz—who is also co-chair of the Gala. Those unable to attend the party in person can pre-register to bid over the phone.
All proceeds from the sales exhibition, Sotheby’s Impact Gala, and its related auction will benefit the Brazilian reforestation non-profit Instituto Terra. In fact, many of the artworks in the upcoming gala sale come from the Instituto Terra collection.
Although some reforestation efforts have met recent review for their lack of biodiversity and community engagement, Instituto Terra “has been an unprecedented regional force in the applied response to the global climate crisis” according to the organization’s website. They planted nearly 3 million native trees, revitalized more than 2,000 natural springs and defended 250 endangered animal species.
Additionally, Instituto Terra shares its trade secrets, creating educational programs for cattle ranchers and laypeople.
Salgado’s show and accompanying gala are just a particularly bright public start to the auction house’s good business. “Our social impact program is well advanced and we have already launched a few programs this year,” Catherine Almonte, global head of diversity at Sotheby’s, told Artnet News, citing the Summer Academy of Home Arts. and its Artists Choice initiative.
“We have many long-term collaborations in the works, locally and globally, which will continue to extend our tradition of partnership with our communities,” she added, “including support for artists through grants”.
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