How the World Health Organization Is Using Art to Fight the Pandemic


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Ask the average informed citizen what the responsibilities of the World Health Organization are, and they're likely to name initiatives like funding medical research and coordinating with politicians and diplomats across the globe to hone optimal public-health policy. So it may surprise you to learn that the WHO also maintains an entire program dedicated to the study and support of the arts as integral tools in human well-being—and that it sees culture as a crucial force in combating the coronavirus crisis that has engulfed much of the planet in 2020.

Christopher Bailey, the WHO's arts and health lead, oversees this team of specialists as they pursue everything from producing evidence-based reports on the concrete ways in which art aids mental and physical health, to working with artists across media to craft health messaging that connects on an emotional level rather than a purely rational one. The program's multifaceted efforts will continue via "The Future Is Unwritten Healing Arts Auction," a major charitable initiative that Artnet and Christie's will be partnering on with the WHO to support the organization's coronavirus response efforts, with a focus on urgently needed mental-health initiatives and the applied use of arts in recovery after the pandemic. As part of the initiative, Artnet Auctions will be launching a sale in October 2020, leveraging its industry-leading online platform to surface voices from the global artistic community in pursuit of a common goal.

In honor of the partnership, Christopher Bailey joins this week's episode of the Art Angle to discuss his deeply personal firsthand experience with the healing capacity of art, the reasons that investments in culture double as investments in health (and vice versa), and why he sees the art world as the next "theater of operations" for the WHO's noble mission.

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