Sometimes when you get invites to events during the week it’s only the dangling carrot of a free bar and food that’s really going to tempt you away from the pleasantries of pajamas and Netflix. This time round we were pleasantly surprised by an invite that came through for a private viewing of ‘Artists Drawing a Line Under Torture’. A pretty hefty statement.
Despite the fact that a free bar was in fact on offer, there was a incredible collection of artwork donated to mark the 30th anniversary of Freedom from Torture. Since 1985, it’s been the only human rights charity that has dedicated itself wholly to the treatment and rehabilitation of torture survivors seeking protection in the UK. Edmund de Waal, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Antony Gormley, Gordon Cheung and Jake & Dinos Chapman are among more than 60 British-based artists who have donated work to the cause.
(Edmund De Vaal – In Another Place, 2015)
Amongst the sea of thick horn-rimmed glasses, whacky hair and snakeskin boots there was a refreshing amount of younger art enthusiasts who had turned out to pitch their luck against the veteran art collectors and bid on some of the work. I myself gave it a go – my first ever art auction. Having hunted down one of the charity reps, I pledged a month of dry pack noodles for dinner and bid on a piece by Sophie Strong. Her tapestry, inspired by the refugee crisis in particular, stood out for me amongst all the most established artists. She had turned up to the event, in all her modesty, to explain to anyone who was interested exactly what her motivation was behind the artwork and why she felt compelled to donate her work:
“I chose these two pieces for the auction as I felt it shows two significant events where harm and injustice has occurred. One piece focuses on the tragic event in Afghanistan when an American soldier murdered 16 afghan civilians. The other is of a Rohingya refugee who was refused entry by other countries in the region and finally reached temporary shelter in Indonesia after spending many days stranded at sea. These images show vulnerable portraits and hopefully encourage us to reflect on these harsh realities and inform ourselves.”
(Sophie Strong – Rohingya teenager - Kuala Langsa, Indonesia, 2012)
I’d like to say it was an exciting hour of heightened suspense before I was notified of my failure, but realistically I’d taken about 4 steps from the rep before my phone pinged and told me I had been outbid. Can’t say I was surprised.
If you want to support an incredible cause, the exhibition will be running over the weekend at Bargehouse Gallery, Oxo Tower. Voluntary donations can be given upon entry but the exhibition itself is free. Tell your mums, tell your mates, tell a stranger – spread the word however you like. It’s a pretty rare opportunity to see such a diverse collection of great artwork together for one show and one incredible cause.