NEW YORK (Reuters) - The contemporary art world's brightest stars, including Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, have aligned to provide AIDS relief in Africa with a special auction in New York conceived by Hirst and rock star Bono.
"The (Red) Auction" is estimated to take in up to $29 million and is being billed by Sotheby's as the biggest contemporary art charity auction ever.
Dozens of works went on display on Monday at Manhattan's Gagosian Gallery before the February 14 sale to benefit the United Nation's HIV relief program in Africa.
"We are just bowled over by the quality and sheer depth" of the 83 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other works on offer, said Oliver Barker, senior international specialist for contemporary art at Sotheby's in London.
"It's the cream of the international contemporary art crop," Barker said of the roster that includes Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami.
Hirst contributed seven works, including "Where there's a will there's a way," a monumental medicine chest sculpture containing hundreds of metal HIV pills. It is the sale's top-priced lot, estimated to fetch $5 million to $7 million.
Another Hirst medicine cabinet sold for nearly $20 million in London last autumn.
"I remember when I couldn't give my art away," Hirst said in a statement. "It wasn't long ago, either." Now "it's great to be able to give something back."
The British artist hit on the idea for the auction two years ago while on holiday in the south of France while he and Bono were spending time on a boat.
Many but not all of the 83 works on offer were specially created for the Valentine's Day auction and are rendered in vibrant shades of red, or use the color as a thematic element.
Among them is Koons's silkscreen "Balloon rabbit wall relief (Red)," expected to command about $1 million.
His sculpture "Hanging Heart" broke the record in November for a living artist, soaring to $23.6 million.
The artists join major corporations including Apple, the Gap, Microsoft and Hallmark, whose sales of "Red"-affiliated products have generated $58 million for the U.N. Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.
Editing by Daniel Trotta