The police killing of George Floyd and the protests that erupted afterward were an eye-opener for mega-art collectors Andy and Christine Hall. The British couple were in COVID-19 lockdown at their home in Palm Beach when the news broke.
“We have lived in the United States for more than 30 years and we only now were realizing how bad the institutional racism is,” Andy Hall said.
He didn’t have far to go to see the consequences of racism.
“In a way, Palm Beach County epitomizes America,” he said. “You’ve got extreme wealth juxtaposed with challenged communities.”
The Halls wanted to do something about it.
They called on their artist friends to donate work to their foundation for an auction to raise money for scholarships for low-income Black students enrolled at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach who plan to pursue careers in the visual or performing arts.
The works will be included in the Phillips auction house’s “20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale,” which will be livestreamed Dec. 8.
The 20 artists who have responded to the call so far include Georg Baselitz, Katherine Bradford, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Anselm Kiefer, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Longo, Kenny Scharf, Daniel Richter, Peter Saul and Julian Schnabel.
Works range in price from around $5,000 to $600,000 for Baselitz’s painting “Gestern und Heute” (Yesterday and Today).
All proceeds will go to the Dreyfoos School of the Arts Foundation. “In the midst of this crazy pandemic sometimes wonderful things happen,” said Kristin Lidinsky, the foundation’s executive director. “We’re thrilled.”
Art dealers told Hall a benefit auction would be a tough sell to artists because they were being peppered with such requests. Instead, “the response we got from artists was overwhelmingly positive,” he said.
Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips’ deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art, isn’t surprised by the artists’ response because of the Halls’ generosity and commitment to art and artists. “Artists know the Halls are serious about it and it must be very meaningful,” he said.
The Halls, who collect post-war and contemporary art, are on ArtNews’ list of the world’s Top 200 collectors. Andy Hall made a fortune as an oil trader and hedge fund manager. But lately, he’s been devoting most of his time to arts philanthropy.
In 2007, the couple founded the Hall Art Foundation to share the more than 5,000 postwar and contemporary art works from their own and the foundation’s collection with the public.
The foundation organizes exhibitions and loans art to other institutions. It operates two museums: the Schloss Derneburg Museum in a historic castle near Hanover, Germany, and a seasonal museum in a former dairy farm in Reading, Vt. It’s also responsible for an installation of Kiefer’s art in a repurposed building at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.
The Halls’ friend Palm Beach resident Gil Cohen introduced them to the Dreyfoos school a few years ago. Cohen serves on the board of the school’s foundation and mentors students at the magnet arts high school.
He invited Christine Hall to accompany him on one of his visits to the school. She was impressed.
When Andy Hall wanted to do something to combat institutional racism in his back yard, he consulted Cohen, who pointed him in the direction of the school’s foundation.
In addition to spearheading the auction, the Halls have donated $25,000 a year for the five years to support Black adjunct artists at the school and pledged another $25,000 a year for five years for scholarships for low-income Black students who want to pursue careers in the arts.
“By focusing on the Dreyfoos school we can measurably move the needle,” Hall said. “The money we’re giving and raising with the auction hopefully will make a difference to what the Dreyfoos School is able to do for its students.”
He’s a firm believer in education as a road to a better life. “Education is key to success for individuals and nations,” he said.