UNHCR’s July 20 Art Basel auction to benefit refugee women

Emmanuel Jambo (South Sudan), Three Women, Where Did We Go Wrong? 2018. Est. $2,000-$4,000. Hand-signed by the artist

BASEL, Switzerland – The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR is present at the prestigious contemporary art fair Art Basel for the second consecutive year to celebrate and raise awareness about refugee women. A highlight of their activities is a July 20 art auction with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. The charity auction will raise funds for UNHCR activities supporting women’s economic inclusion.

UNHCR has curated its own exhibition with the contributions of various artists, including Alfredo Jaar, Tania Bruguera, Bouchra Khalili, Miriam Cahn and François Burland. Each has donated a work to the project. The poster exhibition will be on display in the city of Basel from June 7-20.

More than half of the world’s refugees are women and girls. Women can be targeted for the same reasons as men, but they also face specific forms of persecution, such as gender-based violence. Refugee women and girls often demonstrate extraordinary resilience and courage in surmounting these obstacles and rebuilding their lives.

Helena Christensen (Denmark), 15 Year Old Soreli Martinez, Internally Displaced From Colombia. 2015. Est. $2,000-$4,000. Courtesy of the artist & UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador‚© Helena Christensen

At a time of heightened consideration for women’s rights as a whole, drawing attention to refugee women and girls is all the more fundamental. Far from being mere victims, they prove to be heroines of everyday life, and their potential, emancipation and economic and social participation must be supported.

UNHCR has joined forces with a range of prestigious artists, who either support the rights of forcibly displaced people or who have themselves experienced exile, to draw attention to the resilience and creative potential of refugee women. Jaar’s project “Where do birds fly after the last sky?” was inspired by a poem by the writer Mahmoud Darwish.

Eleven artists were invited to contribute to a series of artistic posters to be exhibited at Art Basel through June 20, World Refugee Day. While some artists created a specific artwork for the project, others provided a pre-existing work illustrating the contemporary drama of forced displacement. An original work signed by the artists will also be auctioned to benefit UNHCR’s activities through the Made 51 project, which supports the economic inclusion of refugee women in the handicrafts sector.

Miriam Cahn (Switzerland) – liegen, 21.08.1995. 29.5 x 42 cm chalk on paper. Est. $5,000-$8,000. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff. © François Doury

Participating artists include Alfredo Jaar, Tania Bruguera, Bouchra Khalili, Miriam Cahn and François Burland; refugee artists Hayv Kahraman, Allam Fakhour and Natalia Sierra Poveda (with the support of the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK); as well as photographers Emmanuel Jambo, Helena Christensen, and Reza.

This initiative aims both to celebrate the creative potential and resilience of refugees and to recognize the role of artists and institutions that use their influence to amplify the voices of forcibly displaced people. The title of the event, “Art Stands with Refugee Women,” invites the public to show solidarity with women and families forced to flee their homelands, and encourages cultural institutions to open their doors to refugees.

The works on exhibition in Basel and for the charity auction may be viewed and bid on through LiveAuctioneers.