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Valuable Art Auction will Benefit UNICEF - 2001-09-11

A valuable collection of 20th century art is going on the block to benefit the United Nations Children's Fund. Art experts at Christie's, the auction house that will handle the sale, expect the treasure trove of modern art to bring in as much as $40 million.

The collection was amassed by Belgian businessman Rene Gaffe, an early champion of modern art who died in 1968. Mr. Gaffe's wife Jeanne designated UNICEF as the beneficiary of the sale of the paintings before she died in October.

The collection contains works by many of the dominant artists of the 20th century, including Picasso, Renoir, Braque, and Miro.

Mr. Gaffe purchased most of the works directly from the artists or from galleries when the art first went on the market. Consequently, Mark Porter, international managing director of Christie's, says most of the works have not been seen since the 1920s and 1930s - seminal years in the development of modern art.

"That leaves us to believe that they will be enormously sought after by collectors because they are completely fresh to the market," he said. "No one has seen them before. The appearance on the market has come as a complete surprise to most of the collecting community and we are already experiencing enormous interest and desire to see the pictures."

UNICEF will be the sole beneficiary of the sale, which is the largest gift UNICEF has ever received.

Actress Susan Sarandon, a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, says there is no more compelling cause than the United Nations Children's Fund.

"More than 10 million children die each year, mostly from preventable causes. We can change that," she said. "120 million school age children, more than half of them girls, are unable to obtain even an elementary education and we can change that. 250 million children under the age of 15 become workers in usually very hazardous jobs simply because their families are poor. We can change. Every day in armed conflicts across the world, children are forced into combat as child soldiers. We can also change that."

Ms. Sarandon says the Gaffe gift recognizes the enormous strides UNICEF has made in saving the lives of children around the world with its health and immunization programs.

The Gaffe art collection will be sold on November 6.