Going, Going... SOLD. The TUSK Rhino Auction at Christie's raises £624,000
Last night’s auction at Christie’s in London had all the typical components of one of their evening sales. There was the usual display of glamorous guests, famous faces and ridiculously good canapés. However, this sale had something rather out of the ordinary… 21 rhinos.
The TUSK Rhino Auction in full swing at Christie’s Auction House
It all started over a year ago, when the African wildlife charity called TUSK gave 21 of the world’s leading contemporary artists a fibreglass rhino sculpture to decorate as they wish, with the intention of selling them at a dedicated Christie’s auction in October 2019. Before reaching the Christie’s auction room last night, all of these rhinos had been scattered across London on public display - in an attempt to spread the message that these near prehistoric animals vitally need our help.
Jonathan Yeo’s Rhino Sculpture, ‘Final Cuts’ sold for £15,000.
It was incredible to see how each artist rose to the challenge and turned this life-size black rhino into an embodiment of their artistic style and values. Some artists went for the more shocking approach and directly referred to the cruel barbarism and human responsibility of the poaching crisis. Artist Jonathan Yeo took this tactic and made his rhino sculpture look like a butchers diagram of meat on a cow. Each part of the body was labelled with terms such as ‘rump’, ‘sirloin’ and ‘brisket’, but the rhino’s horn was left unlabelled and simply painted a bright metallic gold – perhaps a reminder to the viewer that gram for gram, a rhino’s horn is worth more than gold on the black market.
Eileen Cooper’s rhino sculpture, ‘Marjorie’
Other artists used the rhino to display messages of loss and grief in anticipation of their potential extinction. Eileen Cooper’s rhino was illustrated in her typical magical realist style, the artist said she ‘thought a lot about loss and love when painting [her] rhino. She’s named after [her] Mother who passed away 15 years ago. Once something or someone is gone you never get them back.’
Ronnie Wood’s rhino ‘Spike’, it was the highest lot of the night and sold for £200,000.
A real highlight of the evening was when Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s rhino called ‘Spike’ sold for a staggering £200,000. The bidding looked like it might end at around £38,000, but then Ronnie who was sat on the front row shouted a joke to the auctioneer that he would also throw in some VIP tickets! To the total delight of the room, when the lady who was determined to buy Ronnie’s rhino finally finished her bidding, he ran over and gave her a hug.
Dave White’s ‘Fragile’ in the background and Gerry McGovern’s ‘Moreton
In total, TUSK raised a huge £624,000 to help protect rhinos, but it also spread awareness across London by making the sculptures freely accessible to the public. I think it was a fantastic idea and love that art can be used as a vehicle to effectively deliver the complex messages of conservation. As TUSK founder Charlie Mayhew said in his opening speech, ‘rhinos are now poached at a rate of around three every day. If this continues, we risk losing the species forever within 15 years.’ We hear tragic figures like this so often that we’ve become immune to their ability to shock us, but through their powers of creativity these 21 artists were able to make these statistics come to life and hopefully they have shocked us into action.
C. St. Quinton has partnered with a TUSK project partner called Save the Waterberg Rhino; by selling pyjamas we are raising funds and awareness for this amazing cause. Visit www.cstquinton.com for more details.
C. St. Quinton pyjamas photographed with rhinos in the Waterberg, South Africa