Actor and producer Ben Stiller is the moving force behind an exceptional charity auction at Christie’s New York this Thursday. The sale, “Artists for Haiti”, features works by some of the world’s leading artists – and prominent estates – and aims to raise millions for children’s education in earthquake-struck Haiti. Stiller – whose foundation is working to rebuild four schools in Port-au-Prince – enlisted dealer David Zwirner to bring in support from the art world. Other major dealers have helped to put the sale together, Christie’s is taking no money for organising it and artists from Adel Abdessemed to Zhang Huan are among the 25 prominent names in the catalogue. The works are currently on view at Christie’s in New York and include an Elizabeth Peyton portrait “Jay-Z, Glastonbury 2008” (est $50,000-$60,000), Neo Rauch’s “Chor” (2011), inspired by Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (est $600,000-$800,000) and Abdessemed’s “Mappemonde – olive” (2011) made of discarded tin cans (est $150,000-$200,000).

Tunisia took centre stage at the Docks Art Fair, held in the French city of Lyon to coincide with the newly opened Biennale de Lyon. This small fair (on whose selection committee I sit) has a simple formula: 33 booths each showing a single artist. This year, as a gesture to help the country after its Jasmine Revolution, the French ministry of culture subsidised three Tunisian galleries: Ammar, Kanvas and El Marsa. “We are hoping to bring more visibility to our artists now,” says Yosr Ben Ammar of Kanvas, showing paintings by Mohamed Ben Slama. “The problem was that [the deposed president] Ben Ali and his family had absolutely no interest in art: he just ordered artists to make copies of Orientalist paintings. There is no museum of contemporary art in the country either: the good thing is that it’s virgin territory, and things can only get better.” Ammar is displaying works by Meriem Bouderbala (€3,500) and El Marsa gallery quickly made sales of photographs from the series “Free Art” by Patricia Triki at €2,500. The artist had anticipated the revolution by plastering the city last year with posters carrying the word “free” tucked in photographs of Tunis – but if you looked closely, the images had been subtly doctored “to show the feeling of malaise”, says Triki. Gallery owner Lilla Ben Salah says she is “very positive” about the future for art in her country: “This is the moment to get better known, while the world is still interested in Tunisia!” There is even talk of an art fair in Tunis, which would be organised by Caroline Clough-Lacoste, who previously worked on Art Paris. If it happens – and that’s still a big “if” – it will be in May next year.

A wind of change is blowing through the auction scene in Dubai. After a number of specialists departed – Dalya Islam from Sotheby’s, William Lawrie from Christie’s and Charles Moore from Bonhams – Bonhams is throwing in the towel; it is not planning any more sales in the emirate in the foreseeable future. After a dire sale in April that was about 50 per cent unsold, Bonhams cancelled its September session and is believed to be closing its office: the firm’s press office would say only that it is “maintaining a representative in the region”.

And Christie’s has just announced that it is reworking its October Dubai sale by offering cheaper works to attract a wider range of buyers. Its Part I sale features such boldface names as Farhad Moshiri, Mahmoud Said and Parviz Tanavoli, and carries expectations of $6m for 45 lots. But the Part II sale will offer lower-priced works with estimates starting at $2,000, with 150 lots estimated at $6m. Christie’s man in the Middle East, Michael Jeda, explains that the new formula is intended to “introduce more variety into the sales and encourage a new generation to buy at auction”. Even if these top totals are reached, however, the firm is unlikely to better its performance in 2010, when, thanks to the collection of Saudi connoisseur Mohammed Said Farsi, it achieved a buoyant $29m for the year.

Sadly for the artist – but happily for his heirs – death is generally good for artists’ prices. Christie’s sale of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art in New York last week was dominated by the Indian Maqbool Fida Husain, who died this summer aged 92. The auction featured 13 Husain paintings, all of which sold, garnering $4.2m, just short of the pre-sale high estimate: the Husains alone accounted for more than half of the sale total. Buyers came from all over: India, Europe, the US, an unnamed institution and the trade. The top lot, “Sprinkling Horses” (undated), made $1.14m, just under its top estimate of $1.2m (remember, estimates don’t include the buyer’s premium). Overall, the sale made $7.7m, with 69 per cent of the lots sold.

Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot, organisers of the Pavilion of Art and Design in London, are launching a new fair in Milan next year. It will focus purely on design, and will be held on April 9 to 15. “The event is timed to coincide with the massive Salon di Mobile, the biggest furniture and decoration event in the world,” says Perrin. “We are expecting 60 exhibitors and intend to cover all aspects of design, from historical pieces to the latest cutting-edge creations. We’re hoping for contributions from Maurizio Cattelan, who has recently started making design objects.” Apparently a fair like this does not yet exist in Italy. “The request to create this came from Italian design galleries themselves, such as Nilufar and Rossella Colombari,” says Perrin.

Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper

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