Dubai Art4Sight auction raises AED1.3m to tackle trachoma

A charity sale of artworks raised AED1.3m ($353,000) to tackle preventable blindness

A charity sale of artworks by leading regional artists has raised AED1.3m ($353,000) to tackle trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.

Thirty-nine artworks by 34 Arab and international artists – including from the UAE, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – went under the hammer on Thursday night as part of the fourth annual Art4Sight auction, organised by the Noor Dubai Foundation.

The funds raised at the auction will support Noor Dubai’s global programmes to prevent blindness. The biggest single sale of the night was Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s work, ‘Tomorrow is a New Day’, which was purchased for $77,000.

“Artists need their vision to create such beautiful pieces,” said Noor Dubai’s CEO, Dr Manal Taryam. “We want to help people see and we’re using art to fund our programmes.”

Prominent international artists including French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed and Saudi conceptual artist Manal Al Dowayan donated pieces for the auction, conducted by international auction house Christie’s at Dubai Ladies Club.

“Art and philanthropy can transcend national borders, language, religion, race and gender,” said Badr Jafar, Crescent Enterprises CEO and social entrepreneur, speaking just before the bidding. “The most powerful art has the ability to do that, just as the most powerful philanthropy has.”

The money raised will support Noor Dubai’s three-year trachoma control programme. In partnership with US-based foundation The Carter Center, Noor Dubai aims to reach 18 million people at risk of contracting the fly-borne disease in the northern Amhara region of Ethiopia. “Since last year, we have already managed to help over 2.7 million people and that’s just in a few months. We give antibiotics and surgical treatment for eyelids,” said Taryam.

Trachoma affects nearly 40 per cent of children in Amhara, the most endemic of the country’s 10 regions. Typically, the infectious disease blights poor, rural communities with limited access to clean water and healthcare. If left untreated, repeated infections can lead to blindness. The World Health Organisation estimates that 6 million people globally are blind from trachoma, and more than 150 million are in need of treatment.

Launched in 2010, the Noor Dubai Foundation has treated more than 6 million people in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, through its eye camps, which treat ophthalmic diseases in countries that lack specialist healthcare. The Art4Sight concept was inspired by a young glaucoma patient in Mali: Fatoumata, blind at the age of nine, took up painting while recovering from eye surgery, prompting the launch of the foundation’s annual art sale and exhibition. Last year’s event raised AED1.2 million ($326,000).