Deborra-Lee Furness Teams With Christie’s for Hopeland Benefit Auction

“Surprise Ending,” a painting by New York City artist Sarah Sze, will be auctioned by Christie’s on Dec. 3. Proceeds from the painting — which could fetch up to $300,000 — benefit Hopeland, a non-profit co-founded by Deborra-Lee Furness that works to prevent family separations and support children raised outside of family units.

The virtual auction takes the place of Hopeland’s annual gala.

“The biggest reason why there are so many abandoned children is poverty and neglect, but neglect is just another word for poverty,” Furness tells Variety. “People can’t cope and then you have mental health issues, and obviously wars and abuse. There’s a plethora of reasons why children are separated from their families. We want to help empower families so they can stay together.”

Furness and husband Hugh Jackman’s children and Sze’s kids go to the same school. “Because we couldn’t do the gala and that’s how we raise most of the funds to keep going and doing the work we do, Sarah stepped up and said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ I was like, ‘You’re a rock star.’”

The large-scale piece is on wood and includes oil and acrylic paint, acrylic polymers, ink and printed paper collage. It took more than a year to complete. Sze received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2005 and represented the U.S. at the 2013 Venice Biennale. She recently installed her large-scale sculptural commission “Shorter Than the Day” in the new Terminal 2 at New York’s La Guardia Airport.

Hopeland, which began as an effort to promote adoption in Furness and Jackman’s native Australia, recently teamed up with Google on a vocational initiative to teach computer skills to teens aging out of foster care. “I’m reaching out to corporations to step up and provide internships for these kids,” Furness tells me. She and Jackman have also instilled the importance of social justice work in their kids, too. In fact, their daughter has hung Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride flags in the windows of their New York City apartment.

Asked about the Trump Administration’s family separation tactics at the southern border, Furness shook her head. “It’s beyond my comprehension that this is even possible,” she said. “The fact that it even went so far as to not have accountability and not knowing how to reunify these kids and their families? The damage done to these children is for life.”

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