Warburg Renaissance: How a charity art auction will help to support the future of the Institute

Michael Joo | DRWN (Carunculatus) AI 2, 2015

A number of artworks donated by renowned contemporary artists, including Anselm Kiefer, Taryn Simon and Edmund de Waal, will be offered in the Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 4 March in support of the Warburg Renaissance, the transformation of the Warburg Institute.

We caught up with our director, Professor Bill Sherman, to find out more about the sale, some of the works involved, and how it will support the future of the Institute. 

Why is Phillips doing an auction in support of the Warburg Institute?

The Warburg Renaissance project involves the transformation of our building, and we have been able to raise the budget needed for much-needed repairs, room for growth and new functions including exhibitions. But almost from the start there has been a parallel strand of fund- and profile-raising associated with people and programmes, particularly around artistic engagement, and have been delighted to find significant support for this from the art world (including galleries, auction houses and artists themselves). The project will restore the Warburg Institute’s original mix of discovery, display and debate, and the new programmes — including residencies and exhibitions — require new resources. Phillips showed great generosity and leadership in offering us a charity auction alongside their major sale of contemporary art, and (thanks to the outreach of both the Warburg Charitable Trust and the new Visionary Circle) many artists and collectors have helped us to put together an extraordinary sale of work that both shows the influence of the Warburg Institute and guarantees that it will remain an institution with art at its heart.

Cornelia Parker | Articles of Glass (All that Are Left), 2016
Gerhard Richter | Haggadah (P2), 2014

Could you tell us about some of the works involved?

The donated work covers a wide range of media, cultural backgrounds and price points: there is literally something for everyone. We are honoured that some of the world’s leading artists (including Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter) have major works in the auction, alongside several of Britain’s most-loved figures (including Cornelia Parker and Edmund de Waal). And we are also excited by the representation of cutting-edge artists working in ways that shed new light on Warburg’s old interests—in technologies of reproduction, in techniques of juxtaposition, and in cross-cultural exploration.

Model of the new Lecture Room with the new Special Collections Reading Room underneath

Are there any in particular that stand out to you?

I have my personal favourites, of course, but what strikes me when looking at the lots is the range and stature of the artists involved.

How will the Warburg Renaissance impact the Warburg and the artistic community? 

We have seen over the last few years how much interest there is in the Institute—its history, its holdings and its expertise—in the world of museums, art schools and adult education. The Warburg Renaissance will allow us to open ourselves up to new forms of access and partnership. It will, quite simply, allow us to be the hosts that we want to be.


> View the artworks

> Find out more about the auction

> Watch our online panel discussion 'Word, Image and Memory: Aby Warburg and Anselm Kiefer'