The diverse art world here has come together for what is thought to be the largest private-sector fund-raising effort to date in the fight against AIDS: a six-month long, citywide gallery sale of works of art by 600 artists.

“Art Against AIDS” was launched here Thursday night at Sotheby’s art auction house as 1,000 artists, dealers, collectors and friends from the entertainment and literary worlds gathered for cocktails, before moving on to private dinners held throughout the city by celebrity hosts such as Yoko Ono, Richard Gere and Edward Albee. An estimated $1 million was raised by Thursday night’s event alone.

“Isn’t it extraordinary how so often the creative world comes forward to help other people?” Elizabeth Taylor asked at the Sotheby’s gathering, speaking as national chairwoman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, benefactor of the art event. “And now, with AIDS, the world of art has been so hard hit. We’ve all known and seen loved ones die, and now we’re here to help. Art lives on forever, but unless we find a cure for AIDS, there will be no forever.”

Organizers of “Art Against AIDS” said Thursday that the project had grown from a modest undertaking at one downtown art gallery, with 30 works of art representing a single decade, to the current citywide effort of 72 galleries and artists representing the entire 20th Century. They include much major figures as Picasso, Giacometti, Pollock, De Kooning, Nevelson and Hockney as well as artists still struggling for recognition.


Organizers expect to raise as much as $5 million for AIDS education and research by the time the sale closes in December. No less than 50% of the first $200,000 raised per gallery will benefit AIDS, in addition to whatever else the gallery owner and artist agree to. Of an estimated $1 million in sales Thursday night, $800,000 went to “Art Against AIDS” in addition to $200,000 raised by the event itself.

According to Robert Rosenblum, curator of “Art Against AIDS,” the art world has joined the fight against AIDS because, “the number of the dead and dying in the New York art world is multiplying as insanely as the number of victims in an extended war.”