Football art auction raises millions for charity

Simone Thiot (left) and Paulette Olivier were premature babies - 104 years ago (AFP Photo/Guillaume Souvant)
A London auction of football-themed works raised more than $4 million for children\’s charities on Thursday, including a portrait of Barcelona star Lionel Messi by Damien Hirst that alone fetched $556,000.
The Sotheby\’s London auction featured 18 works donated from artists including Japan\’s Takashi Murakami, US sculptor Richard Serra, Egyptian artist Wael Shawky and Saudi Arabia\’s Manal al Dowayan.
It raised just over $4 million for "1 in 11", a campaign to increase education opportunities to vulnerable children in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal.
The colourful painting of the Argentine footballer, "Beautiful Messi Spin Painting For One in Eleven", shows the forward in his Barcelona jersey, flanked by two footballs.
A circular Murakami work showing the footballer about to kick a ball on a floral background, "Lionel Messi and a Universe of Flowers", sold for $483,000.
A football designed by Murakami and signed by Messi sold for $69,000, while the most expensive item sold was a 1999 work by US artist Jeff Koons entitled "Donkey (Yellow)" that went for $850,000.
"Never has the phrase \’the beautiful game\’ been more apt than this evening, when the worlds of football and art collided," said Sotheby\’s auctioneer and Europe deputy chairman Oliver Barker.
Gerard Bocquenet, head of private fundraising and partnerships at UNICEF, which backs the "1 in 11" project, said he was thrilled by the amount raised.
"Every child, wherever she or he lives, has the right to learn, to play and to grow, and tonight art and football have come together in a unique way to help ensure more children enjoy that right," Bocquenet said.
The "1 in 11" campaign was launched earlier this year by Messi and US tennis player Serena Williams.
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