A joint effort between art and mercy has made it possible for one of the most troubled countries in the world to receive a substantial donation for its children in need of medical care.
When the project entitled “Christo’s box, between Art and Mercy, A Gift for Bangui” was presented in May 2016 at the Vatican Museums, Pope Francis had made it quite clear that he wanted the proceeds to go to the Bangui Children’s Hospital in the Central African Republic.
200,000 euros is the sum that has been raised and enthusiastically received by the Pope who has expressed his wish that it be donated to the Hospital so it can care for all poor children “without distinction of religious belonging, because all children need care and attention.”
At the heart of the project, a well-known contemporary artist, the Bulgarian-born US citizen Christo, who “packaged” a fragment of Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’. The work was presented by the artist himself at the Raphael Hall at the Vatican Pinacoteca in collaboration with the Vatican Secretariat for Communications and the Vatican Museums.
Christo is well known for his works of art that involve “packaging” or wrapping – and include monumental intervention such as the “packaging” of Rome’s Porta Pinciana in 1974 and of Berlin’s Reichstag in 1995.
The idea at the root of the project stemmed from a work of art that Christo created through “packaging” a container for a DVD series produced by CTV entitled “Discovering the Vatican”. The cover of the DVD set represents a figure from Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, one of his frescoes to be seen in the Vatican Museums.
The “boxes”, each one numbered and signed by the artist, were auctioned off by Christie’s for 1,000 euros each in London, Turin, Milan and Rome.
At the launch of the project, the then Vatican Museums director, Antonio Paolucci, remarked that “Many years ago, Pope Julius II used Raphael to celebrate himself and his Church, (…) five centuries have gone by and another Pope is using a Raphael for a work of mercy to help one of the poorest and most marginalized countries of sub-Saharan Africa”.
Pope Francis visited the Bangui Pediatric Hospital during his Apostolic visit to CAR in November 2015 and was reportedly struck by the fact that there was no equipment at the hospital to provide oxygen to or to resuscitate children. And so, once he was informed of the initiative, he said that he wanted the proceeds to go to those facilities.