London art auction raises $2.5 mln for survivors of deadly Grenfell Tower blaze

LONDON: An auction of 31 artworks donated by some of Britain's most successful contemporary artists has raised close to 2 million pounds for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed about 80 people in June.

Home to a close-knit, multi-ethnic community, the 24-storey social housing block was reduced to a charred ruin by the inferno that engulfed it in the middle of the night.

Many survivors have yet to be rehoused and are still living in hotels.

The charity auction, held at autioneer Sotheby's late on Monday, included works by A-list artists including Wolfgang Tillmans, Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread.

The idea came from film producer and art collector Hamish McAlpine and art consultant Katie Heller, who said the emotional impact of the Grenfell tragedy was such that almost all the artists they approached agreed to donate works immediately.

"Grenfell touched their souls," McAlpine told Reuters at Sotheby's before the auction. "It's a very emotive subject for people in London."

The proceeds, which totalled more than 1.925 million pounds ($2.55 million), will be divided equally among 158 surviving families. They will receive the funds before Christmas.

Every single one of the lots on offer sold, making the auction a "White Glove" sale in auctioneers' parlance, Sotheby's said. The amount raised was double the pre-auction estimate.

The most expensive lot was "Freischwimmer 193", a very large green print by the London-based German artist Wolfgang Tillmans, which sold for 392,750 pounds.

Next came "Small Charge", a cast iron sculpture by Antony Gormley, which was snapped up for 344,750 pounds.

Two of the artworks were especially created for the auction. Tacita Dean's "Lay the Dust With Tears", a grey and black charcoal-on-paper image reminiscent of billowing smoke, sold for 22,500 pounds, while Idris Khan's "I Remember", also a sombre image in dark tones made with oil, charcoal and chalk on paper, went for 43,750 pounds.