It’s been nearly three years since a fire ravaged Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art. Though 90 percent of the building was spared, the blaze left the school’s treasured Art Nouveau library a heap of charred wood and ash. More than half of the $40 million needed to complete restoration work has been secured. But to conclude the campaign, the school has partnered with an advertising firm and an auction house to host—quite literally—a fire sale.
This month, Christie’s will auction original works created by a roster of 25 notable British artists. The medium? The library’s scorched remains.
The artists include Turner Prize winners such as Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, and Anish Kapoor, as well as Jenny Saville, Tacita Dean, and the Chapman Brothers. The resulting objects—relic-like sculptures, photographs, drawings—will be auctioned off March 8 in a sale titled Ash to Art. Proceeds will be donated to the Mackintosh Campus Appeal. “It places the future of the School firmly in the hands of the UK’s creative community,” said a statement from Bill Hartley and Giles Hepworth, who devised the campaign at J. Walter Thompson, the international agency.
Each artist was sent a piece of debris from the destroyed library, a description, and a request for an art object. Many of the resulting works are like liturgical objects or reliquaries. Douglas Gordon cast fragments of wood into a bronze cross. Kapoor, meanwhile, enclosed his cinders in a red acrylic box.
Grayson Perry said he is frequently asked to create charity works, with requests ranging from coffee mugs to underpants. But the Turner Prize recipient was intrigued and made an urn to house the library’s ashes, which, according to the artist, “was the obvious thing to do.”