Ai Weiwei, Grayson Perry and Other Artists Are Gifting Works to Help Torture Survivors Heal

The benefit auction ending later this month also includes works donated by art collectors and former Freedom from Torture clients.

High-profile artists and art patrons have banded together to support the UK nonprofit Freedom from Torture by donating works to an upcoming auction benefiting the organization. More than sixty artists, including Julian Opie, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Kiki Smith, have contributed pieces to the sale.

Four pieces of glass sat on white background
Ai Weiwei’s Taxi Window Crank, (2012). ©Ai Weiwei Studio/Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Founded in 1985 by human rights activist Helen Bamber, Freedom for Torture has provided psychological therapy and rehabilitation services for more than 30,000 asylum seekers and refugees since its inception. Much of the British organization’s annual fundraising happens during its biennial art auctions. The sale’s 13th edition, an online silent auction, is called Drawing a Line Under Torture and will run through November 6. To cap off the fundraiser, a dozen additional works will be sold at an invitation-only private live auction hosted by Sotheby’s London on the same day.

Grayson Perry’s Product of The Unconscious, (2023). ©Grayson Perry/Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

“The work that Freedom for Torture carries out to support survivors of torture in their recovery and rebuilding their lives here in the UK is incredibly important,” said contemporary artist Grayson Perry in a statement. He made a custom piece for the Freedom of Torture auction at Sotheby’s—a ceramic with an estimate of £80,000 ($99,000) to £95,000 ($118,000).

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The sale will also include Taxi Window Crank, glass recreations of window cranks created by Ai Weiwei in 2012 and donated by the artist (estimate: £10,000 ($12,000) to £15,000 ($19,000)). In a statement, Weiwei noted that “never have these services been more important than today against the political backdrop of the devastating decline of refugee rights in the UK and across the rest of the western world.”

Green painting of chain fence
Nasrin Parvaz’s End of Imprisonment, (2023). Courtesy Freedom from Torture.

Clients of Freedom from Torture are giving back to the nonprofit

The auctions will also include works by artists who were once clients of Freedom from Torture. Iranian artist, writer and civil rights activist Nasrin Parvaz, who worked with the nonprofit in 1994, has donated her 2023 work End of Imprisonment. “I was arrested in 1982, tortured and spent eight years in an Iranian jail,” said Parvaz in a statement. “When I came to the UK, Freedom from Torture not only provided me with vital therapy, but also encouraged me to express myself creatively,” she said. The live auction will include two landscapes by Iqbal, a torture survivor turned artist. Originally from Sri Lanka, he was inspired to begin painting again while attending sessions with Freedom from Torture.

The organization, which supported more than 700 torture survivors from nearly 50 different countries in 2021, has raised more than £1 million ($1.2 million) via its biennial art auction since 2003 and hopes to raise more than £300,000 ($371,000) through this year’s edition.

Drawing of flowers in vase.
David Hockney’s Godetia, (1973). Courtesy Freedom from Torture.

It isn’t just artists who are giving artwork to the auction, however. Drawing a Line Under Torture will include two David Hockney etchings of flowers from 1973, which were donated to the sale by their owner, Julian Barnes, the author of titles like The Sense of an Ending and Flaubert’s Parrot.

Barnes has previously contributed to the nonprofit by participating in its literary auctions, a separate fundraising initiative that has seen writers like Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith sell off naming rights to characters in upcoming works. “I have supported Freedom from Torture for over 30 years and I am proud to help in any way I can to ensure their work continues long into the future,” said Barnes in a statement.

Ai Weiwei, Grayson Perry and Other Artists Are Gifting Works to Help Torture Survivors Heal