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ART MOVES To Benefit The Cure

Sotheby’s & Bergdorf Goodman Co-Host Charity Auction May 8, 2000 For The Cure to Benefit the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation And The Spinal Cord Injury Project At Rutgers University

Christopher Reeve and Chuck Close Speak

45 Artists Donate Works

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve

courtesy The Christopher Reeve Foundation

By Michele Leight

Sotheby’s and Bergdorf-Goodman co-hosted Art-Moves, a benefit auction May 8, 2000 attended by many artists and prominent New Yorkers to benefit the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injury Project at Rutgers University.

Christopher Reeve, the actor and chairman of the board of the foundation, was the honored guest, and Chuck Close, the artist and the chairman of the event's Art Committee, spoke eloquently among others.

Chuck Close talking with attendees

Chuck Close, the artist, center, talking with attendees at cocktail party at Sotheby's prior to the auction

(photograph by Michele Leight)

All proceeds of the live auction and a simultaneous Internet auction ( benefited the Foundation ( and the Rutgers University unit.

Innovative philanthropy is what New York is all about, and there was a lot of giving in the air at this event, the first fine art auction for CURE/RUF, an organization which raises funds for Spinal Cord Injury Research.

Detail of Chuck Close "Self Portrait, 2000"

Detail of "Self Portrait, 2000," by Chuck Close

(photograph by Michele Leight)

A smiling and animated Chuck Close, who donated self-portraits, shown above and below, was in attendance for the entire evening, surrounded by friends and colleagues.

Chuck Close addressing the gathering

Chuck Close addressing the gathering

(photograph by Michele Leight)

Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of contemporary art for Sotheby’s, conducted the live auction with style and humor.

Tobias Meyer auctioning a Close

Tobias Meyer auctioning one of the works donated by Chuck Close

(photograph by Michele Leight)

Bergdorf-Goodman previewed works for the Internet and Live Auction in eye-catching displays in their Fifth Avenue windows from April 14 to April 25 and Sotheby’s hosted the event in their spacious new seventh floor galleries.

Internet bidding commenced at 6.30 as hors d’oeuvres and cocktails were offered to invited guests who viewed works donated by 45 major artists, including Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Joel Shapiro, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, Claes Oldenberg, Christo, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, Kiki Smith, Janet Price, Edward Ruscha, William Wegman and Robert Mangold. The art committee including Eric Fischl, April Gornick, Brice Marden, Sol Lewitt and Joel Shapiro in addition to Mr. Close, and they all donated excellent works of art for the event.

Puppy by Jeff Koons

"Puppy," by Jeff Koons, offset lithograph and screen print on Summerset, 42 by 25 1/2 inches, donated by the artist

(photograph by Michele Leight)

Benefit Committee co-Chairs for ART MOVES, Bill and Clara Feltzin and Joann and Gary Katcher (President of CURE) headed a powerhouse of committee members, including Serena Boardman, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kravis, Ronald Lauder, Francine Lefrak, Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, Dana Reeve, Tara and Michael Rockefeller and Earle and Carol Mack. The Dealers Committee included Mary Boone and Paula Cooper.

Amongst the many guests was Susan Howley, Executive Vice President and Director of Research for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF). "I feel lucky to work with the scientists at the CRPF and learn about what motivates them. They carry the hopes of millions of people waiting for a cure," she said.

Co-chair for this event and President of CURE, Gary Katcher, opened the Live Auction, and spoke of his brother who, two months away from his 19th birthday suffered a gymnastics accident and was paralyzed from the neck down; he passed away after twenty years in a wheelchair, due to complications from his injury.

"As recently as ten years ago, people with spinal cord injuries were told to have no hope. Today, hope abounds. The world’s leading neuroscientists are now saying that within the next three to five years there will be therapies available to restore partial function in humans with spinal cord injuries, and several years after that, to restore full function," Mr. Katcher wrote in the Art Moves catalogue.

Mr. Katcher warmly introduced Christopher Reeve, best known for his acting role as "Superman" until he suffered a riding accident that left him paralyzed. Instead of staying out of the limelight after his accident, Christopher Reeve has worked with drive, determination and enormous courage to bring world-wide attention to the lives of the disabled by making public appearances, attending and initiating fund-raisers, increasing public awareness, advocating and promoting scientific research and by speeches to Congress. He had to wait several minutes before speaking at the auction until the thunderous applause and standing ovation died down.

Mr. Reeve thanked all the artists for their generous donations and the organizers of the event, especially Chuck Close. He spoke movingly of the urgency of funds for research, and of his efforts on behalf of disabled people, which he did not understand until he became paralyzed himself, stressing that small improvements along the way make a meaningful difference in their day to day lives, as well as the big goal he has of walking again.

The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF), which merged with the American Paralysis Association (APA) in April, 1999, encourages and supports research to develop effective treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. CRPF evaluates and selects these research programs using councils of internationally renowned neuroscientists and clinicians. CRPF also allocates a portion of its resources to grants that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

A humorous and witty Chuck Close spoke next, saying with a wide grin that he understood what it felt like to be a painting waiting to swing round on the giant display turntable usually reserved for artworks – scary! He joked about competing with Christopher Reeves for the disabled parking space at Sotheby’s and asked the audience to write the Mayor for more parking spaces for the disabled in the city.

In a heartfelt tribute to the other artists who donated so generously to ART MOVES for CURE, Mr. Close said "I am moved by what each artist has given here tonight…artists are the great 'soft touch' of charity, they give with nothing in return, no deductions, nothing." He asked the bidders to understand that they were supporting vital research, and reminded them of the extremely high caliber of the art in the auction – "Feel good and have art," he said.

Chuck Close donated a silk-screen "Self Portrait, 2000," and a rare colored pencil on paper self-portrait "Untitled, 1999,"estimated at $75,000 which sold for $115,000 in the Live Auction (both courtesy of the artist and PaceWildenstein, New York), the highest paid for an art work in the Live Auction.

April Gornik’s "Edge of the Pond, 2000," fetched $13,000 with a $12,500 estimate (courtesy of the artist). Brice Marden’s ink drawing "Untitled," 1986, went for $11,000 (courtesy of the artist and the Matthew Marks Gallery, New York). Joel Shapiro’s bronze sculpture, a small but beautiful piece, "Untitled," 1999-2000 drew applause when it fetched $45,000 (courtesy of the artist and PaceWildenstein)

Tobias Meyer is to be greatly commended for not letting up on bidders "out to get a bargain" and reminded them of the extremely high quality of the donated works several times during the live auction. He cajoled and charmed and stood his ground: "…Go on, one more, it’s for charity… there is no premium, never forget that…" until Eric Fischl’s glowing watercolor "Untitled (Woman Dancing), 2000, went past its estimate of $25,000, and sold for $26,000 (courtesy of the artist). Sol Lewitt’s gouache on paper, "Parallel Curves," 1999, fetched $7,500, rounding out a highly successful grand total from the Art Committee members alone.

"Luxer (Urban Bourbon)," by Robert Rauschenberg

"Luxer (Urban Bourbon)," by Robert Rauschenberg

(photograph by Michele Leight)

Other notable items in the Live Auction were John Chamberlain’s wonderful painted chrome and steel "Grass Skirt #9," 1993, for $31,000 (courtesy of the artist and Prudence Fairweather), shown below; Roy Lichtenstein’s whimsical painted cast aluminum "Small House," 1997, for $95,000 (courtesy of Dorothy Lichtenstein); Robert Rauschenberg’s gorgeous " Luxer (Urban Bourbon)," 1988, for $80,000 (courtesy of the artist), shown above; and Robert Mangold’s elegant acrylic and pencil on canvas "Red Orange/Gray Zone Ptg. C.," 1998, another clear favorite with Tobias Meyer, who was visibly delighted when it fetched a hefty $55,000 (courtesy of the artist and PaceWildenstein, New York).

"Grass Skirt" by John Chamberlain

John Chamberlain’s painted chrome and steel "Grass Skirt #9," 1993

The arts have always played a major role in healing the spirit, and Christopher Reeve and Chuck Close are proof that what may suddenly, without warning, affect the body, cannot take away from the spirit. "Art moves us, that’s why we love it," said Chuck Close.

The auction was a great success; the Live Auction achieved $420,000 and the Internet auction, which went on long after the Live auction, achieved $127,710, for a total of $547,710.

There are about 250,000 Americans with spinal cord injuries and about 11,000 Americans receive such injuries every year, 82 percent of them male and 56 percent of the injuries occurring to people between the ages of 16 and 30.

Vehicle accidents account for 37 percent of the spinal cord injuries, violence, which is the most rapidly increasing cause, accounts for 28 percent, falls for 21 percent, sports for only 6 percent and 8 percent are other causes.

For educators and parents with young athletic children, or rambunctious sons, the statistics plead for caution and for increasing the awareness of adults and children. The costs associated with disability are frightening, considering that only 52% of all spinal cord injured individuals are covered by private health insurance at the time of injury.

Average lifetime costs of paraplegics aged 25 at time of injury are $428,000 and quadriplegics aged 25 at time of injury $1.35 million. The first year expenses for a SCI injury, all categories, is $198,000.

There is hope for the disabled. Some animals with spinal cord injuries have been reported to be able to move limbs again and researchers are making progress in fixing damaged extensions of nerve cells and getting them to grow.

Christopher Reeve hopes to walk - or at least stand - by his 50th birthday, September 2002, and his faith is grounded in real science. The researchers and world-renowned scientists on his foundation’s Science Advisory Councils are doing amazing things every day. Meanwhile, he keeps his body fit, ready for the day he may be able to stand, or walk. He believes recovery will go to the fittest.

His foundation's Research Consortium was launched in 1995 by the American Paralysis Association that merged in 1999 with his foundation, and the consortium is intended to bring togher the interdisciplinary strategies of eight distinguished neuroscientists.

The spinal cord is an extremely complex tissue with many different cell types. Different injury models, or even different preparations using the same model, may exhibit very different cellular deficits and this makes comparison between laboratories often difficult and the foundation believes it has hampered approaches to the problem.

The consortium's principal investigators, each funded annually by the foundation, are Dr. Ira B. Black of the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J., Dr. Mary B. Bunge of the Miami (Fla.) Project to Cure Paralysis, Dr. Dennis W. Choi of the Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Carl W. Cotman of the University of California at Irvine, Dr. Fred H.Gage of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Dr. Lorne M. Mendell of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Dr. Luis F. Parado of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and Dr. Martin E. Schwab of the University of Zurich.

Drs. Bunge, Gage and Schwab are known for their pioneering work on the spinal cord. Dr. Bunge and her colleagues are working with transferring peripheral nerve cells from the leg and putting them in the spines of injured animals with considerable success and have discovered that cells that line the nose can work as "chaperones" to guide the nerve cells to the right target. Dr. Schwab first identified an inhibitory protein, Nogo, in 1989 that is considered an important key in nerve cell regeneration and he and his colleagues have developed an antibody that blocks Nogo and promotes cell growth. Drs. Black, Chois, Cotman and Parado have done important research on the brain and will now focus their strategies on the spinal cord. Dr. Mendell is an expert in spinal cord electrophysiology.

The consortium is focusing on defining the molecular and cellular properties in the chronic spinal cord injury model, identifying ways to promote nerve cell functions and regrowth of axons, and identifying ways to replace nerve cells lost after injury.

The spinal cord is a central highway for signals traveling from the brain to the rest of the body. A spinal cord injury can disrupt activity and sensation in all tissues below the damage. Christopher Reeve has a tiny injury in his neck between the first and second vertebra. Injury in the neck area can wipe out control over most of the body and often requires the use of a respirator. Fixing the internal phone lines so that the brain and spine can communicate again is the name of the game for research scientists.

Dr. Fred Gage, the chairman of the Science Advisory Council at CRPF, and his colleagues made international headlines for their discovery that the adult human brain generates new cells, contradictory to the long-held view that aging or diseased brain cells could not be replaced. This has wide implications for other neurological disorders like strokes, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Gage has also pioneered techniques for using genetically engineered cells to deliver growth-stimulating agents to spur nerve cell regeneration in animals with spinal cord injuries.

Back in 1988, Dr. Schwab, also with the SAC at CRPF, isolated substances in the central nervous system, which deliberately block growth, called NOGO’s. In a healthy spine, the chemicals establish boundaries that regulate cell growth. After an injury, they become "bad guys" and harm. In recent years Schwab has developed antibodies that neutralize these growth blockers, allowing regeneration to take place. The antibody that blocks NOGO then promotes healthy cell growth.

Dr. Wise Young, Director of the new Spinal Cord Research Center at Rutgers University is also an investigator with the CRPF Consortium. "We have just entered a new millennium. That shift marks an equally significant transformation in attitudes toward spinal cord injuries," Dr. Young wrote in the ART MOVES catalogue. "Following centuries of total hopelessness," he continued, "today the vast majority of scientists in the field believe that feeling and function can be restored. The question in the hearts of those who are paralyzed is, of course, 'When?' Sadly, it is money that will determine the answer. Funding at today's level permit only sequential testing of promising therapies. Increased funds will allow simultaneous tests and the acceleration of the availability of practical applications."

Chuck Close said it best – art does move us. Art "moving" us to support science is pretty cool too. In his dreams Christopher Reeve sees himself moving and he believes he will walk or stand again. For those out there who are disabled and dare not "dream the impossible dream" that they will walk again – keep a close watch on Christopher Reeve. He might just prove to you that you will.

The foundation's next major fund-raiser is "First You Dream...A Tribute to Courage," which will honor Christopher Reeve and Bran Pace with a gala performance at 7:30 PM, June 12, at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York benefiting the Actors' Fund of America's Catastrophic Care Program and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Co-chairs include Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, Liza Minnelli,Glen Close and John Travolta.

The Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Rutgers has a general information telephone number: 732-445-2061.

The telephone number of Art Moves is 212-344-8420 and its E-Mail address is

For more information on the remarkable work these scientists are doing go to the excellent Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation website at and click on the interviews with CRPF supported scientists. It is pretty magical stuff. The foundation's phone number is 800-225-0292.

"Harvest of Innocence," a book on coping with risky behavior by Michele Leight, is at and at

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