Rock star and humanitarian activist Bono and British artist Damien Hirst raised $42.5 million for HIV/AIDS relief in Africa at an unprecedented art auction Thursday in New York.
The star-studded auction at Sotheby's, inspired by Bono's Red Campaign, included works by 90 of the world's leading artists, including Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons and Richard Prince.
Hirst's piece entitled "Where There's A Will, There's A Way," which uses fake pills to represent life-saving drugs for people in Africa, sold for $7.15 million.
"I've been to a clinic in Rwanda and watched six people share a bed. Think about that. Women and kids sick with this disease. People are going to die for lack of these two pills a day," Bono said, looking at the piece, as he toured the exhibit before the sale with Hirst.
Hirst, who is perhaps best known for his formaldehyde shark, wrote by hand to each of the artists asking them to donate works. He says Bono's tireless activism and sheer charisma propelled them all to do it.
"To stand up there and complain and annoy people into parting with money to try and change the world is a difficult job and apart from the music, Bono does that brilliantly," Hirst joked.
Eyes on Africa
The auction is just one part of Bono's latest efforts to bring relief to Africa, where approximately 5,000 people die of AIDS every day.
Though raising funds is imperative, Bono is careful to be strategic about his mission and he says raising awareness is also key.
"It's all about just keeping heat, and not wearing people out either, like the old Sally Struthers model of the starving African supplicant position. It's kind of this is what communicates to politicians," Bono said, recalling television ads from the 1980s when the actress seemed almost on the verge of tears as she pleaded for donations.
Besides fundraising, Bono also spends his time lobbying politicans and governments. As President Bush tours Africa this weekend, Bono said he was grateful that Bush made the trip.
"Individually we're not going to be able to fix the problem, but by our own individual actions we can force governments into taking this seriously," he said.
Already the Red Campaign has distributed drugs to 300,000 pregnant women with AIDS so they won't pass it to their newborns.