Artworks from junta-controlled Myanmar to be auctioned in New York this week

The contraband works of more than a dozen Burmese dissident artists are to be auctioned off in New York City, with the proceeds providing humanitarian aid to pro-democracy protesters in the Southeast Asian county controlled by the junta.

The auction, which will be held December 9-11 at the Jane Lombard Gallery in lower Manhattan, will be followed by an online auction supervised by the gallery and will run December 11-13.

The works on display were made by Burmese pro-democracy dissident artists in hiding and were smuggled out of the country undetected by the controlling military junta.

“We must win peace in Myanmar forever,” said a painter participating in the auction of the political situation in their country of birth. The artist, like the other presentations, cannot disclose his name for fear of reprisals from the authoritarian military junta that controls the country.

Myanmar’s military junta seized power in a coup on February 1, 2021. Since then pro-democracy protests have swept across the country.

As of December 8, 1,318 civilians have been killed in violent repression against the pro-democracy movement, including 93 women, according to the non-profit human rights association Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP). More than 10,200 people were arrested, including more than 2,000 women.

Underground artists create works that will soon be smuggled out of Myanmar for auction in New York © the artist

Human rights groups have detailed how the military junta in Myanmar has used disappearances and hostage-taking to try to quell protests and intimidate political activists, while subjecting detainees to torture, rape and other forms of abuse.

At least eight women died in detention, four of whom were tortured to death in an interrogation center.

“Every day we strive for a better life,” says the artist. “Artists are peacemakers, and we hope that through gentle and constructive behavior we can effect change.”

Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement was formed by people of many professions, including artists, to challenge the dictatorship. At its peak, around 650,000 people refused to work for the junta, crippling many sectors of the economy.

Yet it has forced artists and their families to face extreme financial hardship.

“The coup has had an extremely negative impact on Myanmar’s cultural life,” says one of the auction’s organizers. “The artists used their skills to create paintings, sculptures and crafts while in hiding. “

In this context, bringing the works of art out of the country hit by the crisis, “has really been a team effort,” said the organizer.

“We were fortunate enough to partner with [reliable] people inside and outside Myanmar who collected all the coins from all over the country and successfully transported them to New York.

Profits will be donated to Myanmar to provide humanitarian aid to pro-democracy activists.

“We hope this will be one of the many other fundraising events showcasing the strength, talents and struggle of the Burmese people,” they said.

The works for sale span many mediums and represent Myanmar heritage sites, monasteries and landscapes in various ways.

The online event will open with songs, poetry readings and speeches. The auction will feature both Myanmar and international contributors. More information can be found here.

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