Laurence Graff told Spear's that he had always wondered what it was like to stand on the other side of the podium instead of sitting in the front rows
By Josh Spero
Frieze Week started last night as it meant to go on: with art, with an auction, with charity, with glamour. Laurence Graff's FACET Foundation (For Africa's Children Every Time) raised over $1.2 million with a sale at Christie's of work donated by Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and more.
Laurence Graff told Spear's that he had always wondered what it was like to stand on the other side of the podium instead of sitting in the front rows. He brandished his panel with enthusiasm and alacrity, but also proved a generous consigner: the first lot – Khotsa Nala Earrings – was donated by him.
The actual auctioneer was Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie's Europe. At the afterparty at Sketch, Jussi told Spear's: ‘The crowd here is a testament to the pulling power of Laurence Graff, not just with serious collectors but more importantly with artists, who he’s been a big supporter of, hence all their donations.’
Jussi also broke one of his rules when Spear's asked what his favourite picture of the sale was: ‘Anyone who knows me knows that I very rarely announce any sort of personal preference for a picture when it comes up for sale, however I did come out and say I really liked the Lionel Smit.’
The biggest surprise of the evening was that Raqib Shaw's 'Mild-Eyed Melancholy of the Lotus-Eater', an oval of delicate flowers and Hindu symbols rendered in acrylic, enamel, rhinestones and glittery, went for £200,000, well above its £80-120,000 estimate.
Mr Graff set up FACET after his mother's death in 2008 to give back to Africa, the source of most of his diamonds. It is currently funding the Graff Leadership Centre in Lesotho, in association with Help Lesotho. The centre will provide a leadership camp for orphans and vulnerable youth in a country where Aids has reduced life expectancy to 37 and made it the third poorest country in the world.
Tomorrow: Hirst at the Wallace Collection, Anish Kapoor at Lisson and Royal Courts of Justice