Auction houses continue to delve 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 environmentalist Sebastião Salgado. But in this case, the exhibition, which is free and open to the public until October 12, fully benefits Instituto Terra, the non-profit conservation organization co-founded by the artist and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado.
Magnum Opus comprises 50 Salgado platinum prints, straight from the artist’s studio, ranging from his earliest work in 1978 to the present day. The prints were created in larger formats than fans can typically afford – even in museum displays – with each image measuring approximately 3 feet by 4 feet on average.
The exhibition spans five decades of the artist’s career, from his earliest series, including Other Americas (1977–1984), in which he documented the lives of impoverished communities across Latin America, to his most recent investigation of rainforest destruction in Amazonia (2021).
“Salgado’s work has been featured in our photography auctions for more than three decades,” Emily Bierman, Head of Photography at Sotheby’s, told Artnet News. “Following the recent installations of his Amazônia exhibition in Paris and London, I have been inspired by his commitment to conservation and the power [of] his work to find a way to work together.”
“Magnum Opus” also launches Sotheby’s new Social Impact programme, which aims, among other things, to promote access to art and the protection of the environment. The initiative will be marked by the auction house’s first-ever gala to be hosted by CEO Charles F. Stewart this week on September 28th. In addition to a seated dinner and live performance by Latin American pop star Anitta, the event will also include a sale of artworks loosely themed around the earth’s natural treasures, including an archival elephant print by wildlife photographer Michel Ghatan and an abstract floral painting in acrylic by Susan Swartz.
However, exclusive experiences are the true headlines of sales. Building on previous experiments like the MayDay Covid Relief charity auction, which offered virtual talks with celebrities like Hillary Clinton and the Strokes, this new auction will include bids for an in-person studio visit with David Hockney and a photo session with Annie Leibovitz. who also serves as co-chair of the gala. If you cannot attend the party in person, you can register to bid by phone.
All proceeds from the Sotheby’s Impact Gala sales exhibition and associated auction will benefit the Brazilian non-profit Instituto Terra for reforestation. In fact, many of the artworks featured in the Gala’s forthcoming sale come from the Instituto Terra’s collection.
Although some reforestation efforts have recently been tested due to a lack of biodiversity and community engagement, Instituto Terra has been “an unprecedented regional force in applied intervention to the global climate crisis,” according to the organization’s website. They have planted nearly 3 million native trees, revitalized more than 2,000 natural springs and cared for 250 endangered species.
In addition, Instituto Terra shares its trade secrets and creates educational programs for ranchers and laypeople alike.
Salgado’s show and the accompanying gala are just a particularly brilliant public prelude to the auction house’s entrepreneurial world-wide service. “Our Social Impact program is well underway, and we’ve already launched a few programs this year,” Catherine Almonte, Global Head of Diversity at Sotheby’s, told Artnet News, citing the house’s Summer Arts Academy and its Artists Choice initiative.
“We have numerous long-term collaborations in the works locally and globally that will continue to expand our tradition of partnering with our communities,” she added, “including supporting artists through grants.”
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