On January 12, 2010, Haiti–the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere–was struck by a catastrophic earthquake that took nearly 230,000 lives, injured over 300,000 people, and left over a million homeless and displaced, according to reports from the United Nations and USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Even now, twenty months later, widespread devastation remains.
In early 2011, actor and director Ben Stiller joined together with gallerist and art dealer David Zwirner to organize Artists for Haiti (artistsforhaiti.com), a major evening art auction to be held at Christie’s in New York on Thursday, September 22 at 7 PM. Artists for Haiti, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, joins in the much needed humanitarian effort to raise significant funds for children's education and health programs. 100% of the proceeds from this sale will go directly to support nonprofits and NGOs that are already performing extraordinary work on the ground in Haiti, including: Architecture for Humanity, Artists for Peace and Justice, Ciné Institute, Grameen Creative Lab, J/P HRO, Partners In Health, and The Stiller Foundation, among others. Prior to the auction, all works will be on view at David Zwirner (September 6 – 14) and at Christie's (September 17 – 20).
"Over a year after the massive quake in Haiti there remains a huge need to rebuild and help the country," said Ben Stiller. "With the generosity of Christie's and the artists who have contributed pieces to the auction, David and I are working to help raise funds, so that the children of Haiti have an opportunity to receive the education they need to lead a better life and fulfill the potential of this vibrant and important culture."
"When Ben and I visited Haiti earlier this year, I immediately felt compelled to do something to help," said David Zwirner. "From the moment we embarked on this project at the start of 2011, the outpouring of support from the artists, estates, and many galleries has been inspiring. We cannot thank them enough. Through their donations and with everybody's help, I believe we will be able to make a significant difference."
A special catalogue–with a text by Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health–has been produced together with Christie's, who has generously waived all fees and commissions for the Artists for Haiti auction, ensuring that the hammer price for each lot will be the final price for each buyer. Bids will be taken in the sales room or by telephone. As stated by Zwirner, "Christie's support for Artists for Haiti has been unparalleled. They have been a true partner on this journey, and without their commitment and expertise this auction would never have become a reality."
On the evening after the auction, an exclusive fundraising gala co-chaired by President Bill Clinton, Ben Stiller, and David Zwirner will be held at Skylight Soho on Friday, September 23 at 7:30 PM. The event will celebrate Artists for Haiti and benefit The Stiller Foundation (thestillerfoundation.org). Founded by Ben Stiller in 2010, The Stiller Foundation's primary mission is to promote the education and well being of Haitian children. The foundation has been focusing efforts on building schools in Haiti where, according to a report from the United Nations, the earthquake damaged or destroyed 8,000 schools that served 1.8 million children in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince alone. All of the schools on the western side of the city were totally destroyed, while 40% in the south were severely damaged. Stiller began his fundraising initiatives with the StillerStrong campaign, which was done in conjunction with Save the Children, to raise funds for a school in the central plateau of Haiti. In the wake of the earthquake, Stiller expanded his commitment to Haiti with a broader effort to aid children affected by the catastrophe. Currently the foundation is working to rebuild four badly damaged schools in the Port-au-Prince area. Other temporary-to-permanent structures have been erected as of the 2010 fall term, allowing hundreds of children to return to a safe learning space.
President Clinton launched the Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund in 2010 and joined President George W. Bush in creating the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. He serves as the United Nations Special Envoy and co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. "Haiti has held a special place in my heart for more than three decades," he says. "I have been impressed by The Stiller Foundation's commitment to permanent, sustainable school development in Haiti and I am proud to join Ben Stiller and David Zwirner as co-host for the Gala celebrating Artists for Haiti. True recovery is about more than just moving people in and out of tents; it means setting up the institutions and systems that will empower citizens to build a bright future for themselves and their children."